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Thursday 13 May 2021
Black River by Will Dean
This novel is the third featuring tough-minded reporter Tuva Moodyson. It’s Scandi noir at its best by an English author settled in Sweden whose previous thrillers Dark Pines and Red Snow introduced us to the deaf, kickass protagonist. It can be read as a stand-alone.
Set in the remote, rural one-horse town of Gavrik surrounded by dense, gloomy, pine forests, Tuva is drawn back from Malmo when her best pal, Tammy, who runs a tasty Thai food take-away from a van, goes missing, presumed forcibly abducted, during Midsommer, a traditional Swedish festival, involving maypoles, outdoor games and much eating and drinking on the shortest day of the year. Not long after Tammy’s disappearance, a second woman, an aspiring celebrity, vanishes and this ratchets up the tension.
Tammy, a Swede of Thai heritage, is regarded as an outsider and her absence is only taken seriously when the second woman from a well-to-do family with clout is also unaccounted for. It becomes a race against time to find the two, very different, women before they become grim statistics.
The reader meets a host of bizarre, if not truly creepy, residents, with strange occupations and interests that clearly necessitated a depth of research by the author. Yet the research is skillfully woven into the storyline, a feat in itself, and one never feels burdened by the information.
Not a particularly complex plot, although none the worse for that, the author is a talented craftsman, a wordsmith who effectively creates an evocative and yes, also chilling atmosphere where characters are suspicious of outsiders, where the reader can feel, smell and witness the nasty seasonal insects and bugs and where the identity of the perpetrator is completely unexpected. Tuva, too, is confronted by unimaginable danger and one wonders if she will live to fight another day.
From start to finish the pace is as fast as it is electric, the writing fresh and descriptive, characters are fully formed, the dialogue crisp and the bonds between women sensitively probed and explored. What’s not to like? This book is a winner.
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax
Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying Law at LSE, and working many varied jobs in London, he settled in rural Sweden with his wife. He built a wooden house in a boggy forest clearing and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes. Dark Pines was his first novel.
Serena Fairfax spent her childhood in India, qualified as a lawyer in England and practised in London for many years. She began writing by contributing feature articles to legal periodicals then turned her hand to fiction. Having published nine novels all, bar one, hardwired with a romantic theme, she has also written short stories and accounts of her explorations off the beaten track that feature on her blog. A tenth, distinctly unromantic, novel is a work in progress. Thrillers, crime and mystery narratives, collecting old masks and singing are a few of her favourite things.