Recommendation Tuesday: A Darker Shade of Sweden (Stories)
Recommendation Tuesday started as a joke and is now an official thing. If you've got a book to recommend on this or any Tuesday, tweet me at @FullShelves and I'll help spread the word.
This week, Sandra is getting in on the fun and recommending a collection of short stories she really, really enjoyed, A Darker Shade of Sweden.
Without any sense of shame, I admit to judging a book by its cover. I laser in on a beautifully bound book. But, a book can’t get by on looks alone. Intelligent writing is what truly endears it.
A Darker Shade of Sweden edited by John-Henri Holmberg has it all: beauty and brains.
The artful binding holds together a collection of Swedish crime fiction, bringing the best of the genre into an assortment of seventeen stories never before published in English. They’re an enthralling and diverse group of stories, each that can comfortably be read in one sitting.
The following three selections will give you a taste of the variety that waits for you in this fine compilation of the best of Swedish crime fiction, though I recommend each story.
Day and Night My Keeper Be by Malin Peterson Giolito
Just as the weariness coming from taking two small children to the mall threatens to overwhelm her, Petra’s oldest child has disappeared.
“Be still!” she screams at her son. Her handbag keeps sliding off her shoulder, she claws at it. And she feels very tired. Exhausted. “Why,” she whispers to herself. Not frightened, just dejected. “Why, why, why?” It isn’t fair. What’s she supposed to do now?
She wonders what to do, why this unfair burden, which direction to go and then hands her son who’s riding in a stroller over to a stranger. She randomly runs through the crowded mall calling her daughter’s name while leaping up and down hoping to catch sight of her missing daughter.
The police come to aid in the search and for the lead detective the real crime quickly becomes apparent, the crime of neglect.
The thoughts of the lead detective and the mother will haunt you as you read. Like so much in life, the story unfolds and closes without resolution.
Privy to the mother’s most personal thoughts and public actions, we know that neglect is the world her children know. The daughter is found and the officer leaves bearing this dark knowledge upon her shoulders, yet unable to do anything to help the children in this psychologically harrowing tale.
Never in Real Life by Ake Edwardson
Edwardson has received praise for writing that begins with a subtle easy style and crescendoes into powerful insights and psychological drama. You will be lulled into an easy read with startling twists.
A husband and wife are out for a holiday in search of the sun. They talk together with easy camaraderie while traveling toward their destination. As the story unfolds their true relationship shows its cracks, its splinters and gaping holes.
In an innocent parley, the wife refers to her husband as silly thus ending their pleasant conversation. A new window opens into the heart of their life.
He saw that she flinched. As if he was going to hit her. It had happened before, but he knew that she understood why he had to do it that time. Or those times. She had gone too far and he didn’t been able to stop his hand, or his arm.
The abusive husband on an outing with his cowed wife coupled with the twists and turns in this thriller made me wonder why I didn’t anticipate the final outcome.
Edwardson’s writing weaves a study of personality into a satisfying and startling thriller set against the lonely landscape of the Swedish countryside.
Too Late Shall the Sinner Awaken by Katarina Wennstam
Wennstam is one of many Swedish crime writers whose fiction is based on her principled views on current social problems.
Twenty-six years after Captain Charlotta Lugn’s first major murder case, one still unsolved, she receives a phone call on Christmas Eve that she knows will make this day unlike any other.
“I’m on my way. How do I get there?”
She arrives at the home of the mother of the unsolved murder victim who quietly sips tea while speaking of her son’s life and of how she and the boy’s father hate homosexuality. She refers to her son as a degenerate, an abomination.
The conversation flows from the mother’s mouth like flames bursting from hell. She has held her intolerance and hatred close and closed all these years. She allows it to spill forth because she knows that Captain Lugn is a lesbian who must hear a mother’s story of sorrow and pain, and finally of hate.
This skillfully-told story will hold your attention, break your heart and horrify you. Wennstam explores the depth and pain of intolerance and dogmatism that leaves little to lighten this tale while exploring the inevitable result of blindly following unenlightened religious beliefs.
Each of the seventeen stories offers a unique flair, theme and style.
Comprised of 357 pages of fabulous writers who have contributed to the canon of Sweden’s finest, you may want to do as I did: Place this beautifully bound book by your bed to treat yourself to the gift of fine writing. Each piece averages about twenty pages in length - a perfect night-cap!
Disclosure: Finished copy provided by the publisher.