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End of Summer by Anders de la Motte

In the summer of 1983, little Billy Nilsson goes missing. He was chasing a rabbit, through the garden, and into the maize field behind. He has not been seen since. In the present day, Veronica Lindh is a grief counsellor running group therapy sessions for the bereaved – although she clearly has problems of her own: anxiety, panic attacks, a scar on her arm that she keeps obsessively hidden and she is barely hanging on to her job. It's clear that she has just returned to work after an episode that seems to have resulted in restraining orders against her, a deal of therapy, a change of location and her supervisor is watching closely. As well, he needs to.

End of Summer by Anders de la Motte

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: A solid murder mystery focusing on a child who went missing back in 1983, brought back to the fore when a stranger who seems to have a connection to the case turns up at a grief therapy session
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: August 2021
Publisher: Zaffre
ISBN: 978-1785768231

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Then one day Isak joins the group. He tells a tale about losing a friend when he was five or six and describes circumstances that push Veronica to wonder about her little brother Billy. Does this man know something…or…could it be possible…? There is something very familiar about the way he looks. Veronica Lindh is an assumed name. When Billy went missing, she was Vera Nilsson, his sister – and Billy's disappearance wasn't the last of the tragedy. As she explains at the start of her therapy sessions, she understands the nature of grief because when she was 14, her mum filled her pockets with stones and walked out onto an ice-covered lake.

End of Summer is a three-strand tale. In the present day, we follow Veronica / Vera as she appears to be stalked, struggles to stay focussed on her job and returns home to try to find out more about her brother's disappearance – all the while wondering who Isak really is and what he knows. Interspersed, we're taken back to 1983 and Chief of Police Krister Månsson's investigation of Billy's disappearance. Finally, there are occasional love messages that start full of hope and belief and trust, but slowly become darker. They are merely addressed Darling and are unsigned. It's unclear whether they are letters, or texts, or telephone messages…and who they are from or to.

The setting is a close-knit agricultural community in southern Sweden, an area undergoing seismic economic change, where old loyalties and old feuds and local power bases cannot be ignored, a place where everyone knows everyone else and either you stay, or you leave. Vera's older brother Mattias stayed, despite promises that he wouldn't. She left. And the youngest sibling Billy – Billy was just gone…

The story covers old ground: the missing child, the lack of evidence, the usual suspects, the tracks and trails that may or may not lead somewhere. It's testament to the author's skill that it holds the attention. The tension is ramped up and allowed to relax, time and again. All of the clues are there, but they're not all actual clues, and those that are could fit a number of scenarios. It's always hard to know what (if anything) might have been lost in translation, so I can't speak for the emotional hold of the original Swedish, but the English edition – for me at least – rarely dragged me in on that level. It worked well as a mystery and I did switch off a normally-watched TV show because I needed to go back and find out what happened, but it was an intellectual curiosity rather than an emotional link to the characters.

If you like this then I can also recommend another take on the 'missing child' starting point in the form of Home by Harlan Coben

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