The newest entry in the Prosecutor Rebecka Martinsson series begins with the discovery of the carcass of a massive bear, evidence indicating that he had mauled and feasted upon a human victim. Not long after, in distant Kurravaara, Martinsson is assigned the investigation into the brutal killing of a woman, Sol-Britt Uusitalo, the daughter of the man identified as that victim, murdered in her bed; her seven-year-old grandson, who lived with her, is nowhere to be found. As the investigation continues, it soon appears that Sol-Britt’s grandfather and grandmother had years ago each also been murdered, in separate incidents, and three years earlier her son was run over in what appeared to be a hit-and-run incident. Like police everywhere in the world, neither Rebecka nor any of her colleagues believed in coincidence. As always, there are office politics in play as Rebecka is soon officially taken off the case. But that’s never hampered her before, nor does it here.
Essential to the tale are glimpses into Rebecka’s private life, including her on-again-off-again romance with one of the partners in the Stockholm law firm where she used to work, and her colleagues, chiefly mother-of-four Inspector Anna-Maria Mella and Krister Eriksson, the police dog handler (learning to live with the fact that he and Rebecka are destined to be no more than friends), and her neighbor, Sivving, who is “closer to her than anybody else in the world,” and all their respective canine pets, who become as much a part of the tale as any of the humans. The writing is lovely, e.g.: “Who can love perfection? No, love requires solicitude, and solicitude requires the loved one to have faults, requires wounds, frailty. Love wants to heal. Perfection has no need of healing. Perfection cannot be loved, merely worshipped.”
The action takes place in the winter in the far north of Lapland, whose atmosphere is wonderfully well-evoked by the author, as “forbidding as the creaking, squeaking, relentless midwinter.”
The present-day chapters frequently alternate with flashbacks to the period between 1914, when the was in Europe is escalating into WWII, through the end of the war in 1919, and for the next several years up to and including 1926, when their relevance is made crystal clear. The author has in previous novels proven herself masterful in using this device, and this is no exception. After just having finished this author’s “Until Thy Wrath Be Past,” this equally intriguing tale was another treat, and is also recommended.