The murder of a Dutch student on a Gotland dig has roots more sinister than any Viking remains.
Architect’s daughter Martina Flochten is using the long days of the Swedish summer to excavate artifacts at a site supervised by Staffan Mellgren. She likes to party, she likes to flirt, and she’s evidently enjoying an affair with someone else on the dig. All that ends when she disappears one night and her body is found hanging from a tree. Det. Supt. Anders Knutas and his team (Unspoken, 2007, etc.), called to the scene, soon discover that Martina’s abdomen was slashed only after death and that she was drowned before she was hanged. The inference that follows is even more chilling. Her death is clearly linked to the inexplicable beheading of Pontus, a gentle farm horse—an incident already well-publicized by the interfering of TV reporter Johan Berg, who’s happy to report any horrors that allow him to be close to his lover, schoolteacher Emma Winarve, when she has their baby. A killer who’ll drain both an old horse and a young woman of blood, reasons Knutas, is likely to seek out more victims—a theory that’s unpleasantly supported by the discovery of a horse’s head that doesn’t belong to Pontus.
The investigation, as usual, crackles with tension, and the constant shifts in viewpoint are expertly managed. But the bizarre denouement is likely to make the third of Knutas’s cases to appear in English the hardest sell to an American audience.