Kjell Erikson hardly writes traditional mysteries. What he does, and does well, is put together in the Ann Lindell series psychological studies of characters who interact, together with a deep look at his signature character and her past and present. “Open Grave” is an excellent example of his work. The story is built around Professor Bertram von Ohler, a Swedish research doctor who has just been notified that he has won a Nobel prize and its affect on his various neighbors, his housekeeper of 55 years and others: their reactions and in some cases actions.
Ann Lindell plays a minor roll in investigating various incidents perpetrated on the Professor: a rock thrown at his house; a human skull left on his fence. Apparently his choice as a Nobel laureate is less than popular. Meanwhile, Lindell has to confront her past as a dear friend is dying and she has to visit in the presence of the love of her life, which relationship ended many years before.
The only criticism that can be made is the slowness in developing the novel. More than 100 pages are consumed with minutiae as the novel progresses finally to the main story line. Of course, that is a characteristic of this author’s modus operandi, but when he finally gets going there are constant surprises. It is not unusual for this author’s characters to retain secrets, and this novel is no exception. In fact, the story is built around these secrets. While there is a murder at the end of the tale, it is almost an afterthought which makes the novel a crime story.