In the Month of the Midnight Sun by Cecilia Ekback
|In the Month of the Midnight Sun by Cecilia Ekback|
|Category: Crime (Historical)|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A second historical Nordic Noir from the author of the exemplary Wolf Winter. The same sinister eeriness, the same mountain community but a whole new story set 100 years later – masterfully thrilling.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: June 2016|
|Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton|
|External links: Author's website|
1856, Blackasen Village, Sweden: A Lapp sits surrounded by three dead bodies – the vicar, a constable and one other. The murders coincide with the arrival of Magnus Lille, a geologist sent by the Swedish government to map the mountain that gives the village its name. Magnus doesn't realise what he's walking into as up till now he thought his main problem was his sister-in-law, brought with him at his wife's father's, (the Minister for State's), insistence. The events that will take place will cause them both sleepless nights and a real chance that neither will live to go home.
Journalist and word weaver extraordinaire Cecilia Ekback is back with another tale from the village looked down on by the eerie presence of Blackasen Mountain. Although the people and geographical backdrop come from Cecilia's own imagination, the historical touches give it a sense of real world existence, deepened by her wonderfully lyrical prose and compelling characters.
The central space in our imagination is taken by an odd couple – Magnus and his teenage sister-in-law Lovisa. Ok, teenage wasn't actually invented until the 20th century but the symptoms and hormones were there before that or that's our general first impression of the sulky, independent lass who seems a liability rather than a companion. Then gradually we understand more of the home life from which she's been thrown out and realise that she has cause to grump.
Lovisa's father, the government minister, only has a small part at the beginning of the book but his presence looms large over both our travellers and in particular in the way Lovisa is and the choices she makes.
Magnus on the other hand, just wants to geologically map the mountain but is pulled into the sinister happenings in the community beneath it. The murders may seem an open and shut case with a likely murderer sitting among the bodies, but there's more to it as we're enticed by some deliciously disclosed twists and insights. In a place where secrets abound, even an innocent image like a girl singing has less than innocent undertones and deepens our sense of foreboding.
Cecilia ensures that those seeking more layers than the excellent murder mystery are sated happily. Questions are silently posed about religion, the desperate hunt for minerals and man's control of the environment and, indeed, of man. Even more topically, Cecilia also touches poignantly on xenophobia and the strangers who live within communities without being permitted to integrate. For here the nomadic Lapps are second class citizens to begin with, the murders giving those with prejudices a warped rhyme and reason.
The climax is wonderfully crafted, bringing an out of left field twist that sends us reeling. Better still, there's a slight hint in the very last line that perhaps we've not finished with Blackasen yet. I have a feeling that whichever century we re-join, we may be returning to that world that melts our hearts as well as triggers our fears and it won't be a moment too soon.
(A big thank you to the folk at Hodder & Stoughton for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you haven't read it yet, do please treat yourself to Cecilia's Wolf Winter. If you enjoy historical crime with a sense of poetic bleakness (in oh such a good way) we also recommend The Purchase by Linda Spalding.
You can read more book reviews or buy In the Month of the Midnight Sun by Cecilia Ekback at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy In the Month of the Midnight Sun by Cecilia Ekback at Amazon.com.
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