Fresh Blood

Name: Mons Kallentoft

Title of Book: Midwinter Sacrifice

'...a breathtaking piece of artistry that appears to have been effortlessly constructed.'

It is the coldest February anyone can remember. So it is bizarre that anyone should venture out on such a cold and treacherous night to hang a large corpse from the branch of a tree. A body that has obviously been tortured before being hung out like a piece of cloth in the biting wind. Malin Fors is a single mother who feels life slowly unravelling. She still loves her ex-husband and she feels that her daughter is growing up too fast. Plus she does seem to enjoy a drink or three.

Bengt Andersson was a man with extreme learning difficulties. Why would anyone want to kill him in such a barbaric fashion? Does it have anything to do with the Murvall family who close ranks to all outsiders and have some very suspicious habits? Did they take revenge on Bengt believing he had raped their sister, Maria who had been his carer before she was assaulted? So many questions and such a lack of answers lead Malin down a very winding path that will explode like an incendiary just when she believes that this case will never break.

Let me firstly warn you – this is a very COLD novel. You will most likely be freezing as you read it. Read ‘Midwinter Sacrifice’ and I guarantee that you will never moan about our British weather ever again!! This novel should come with a health warning – wear warm clothing whilst reading this book! If the story is to be believed your blood could possibly solidify just by standing around the fields of Linkoping, Sweden. I cannot explain the phenomenon that is ‘Swedish Crime Friction’ however you have to salute them that they do it very well. Reading a Swedish crime novel is pretty much like sitting down and watching the individual grains of sand dropping through an hourglass. But that is the attraction of those Swedish writers. They take their time and for some unbeknownst reason the reader follows them doggedly and as the plot is revealed, in what can only be described as a leisurely manner, you are handed a breathtaking piece of artistry that appears to have been effortlessly constructed.

Kallentoft’s character, Malin Fors is a complex woman with a determined sense of justice. With a fragile sense of tenacity she is determined to dig and dig until she reaches the truth. She sees herself as an avenging angel for a man who couldn’t defend himself from prejudice and misunderstanding from the narrow minded who took pleasure in tormenting such a defenceless soul. ‘Midwinter Sacrifice’ takes another interesting twist with the arrivals of the Murvalls. With their protective wall of silence surrounding them Malin comes to a complete halt in the investigation.

‘Midwinter Sacrifice’ is peopled with peculiar and beguiling characters, a motley crew of souls all who have something to hide. With a mesmeric clipped style of writing, the pages fall away as Malin and co stealthily track down their killer. This is the first in the series and I for one will definitely be following Malin’s cases as they arrive in the UK. ‘Midwinter Sacrifice’ is a stark novel that harks the arrival of a new major Swedish talent.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) What first made you want to write a crime novel?
I had written three novels and a collection of food and travel writing. I had received awards and great reviews, but I had not gotten a lot of readers. I strongly felt I wanted more readers, and by writing a crime novel I was hoping to achieve that. I have also always loved to read crime fiction, and all my previous work was strong on structure and drama. So crime fiction was a perfect fit. Also, I saw a gap for renewing the genre and add new dimensions and literary quality. I also wanted to be translated into bigger languages than Swedish.
2) Malin Fors is your main character. What made you want to have a woman as your main detective? How easy/difficult was it to write from a woman’s perspective and make her creditable?
Malin is in many ways a classic crime novel cop, but instead of a slightly older man, I made her a young single mother, which for me was much more interesting and fresh. She is driven by her ghosts and her intuition. She is divorced, drinks too much and works too much. She channels her real life problems into work. I believe that deep down, men and women are equal. We are driven by the same basic emotions. If you are anything worth as a writer, you should be able to create both female and male characters. But with Malin I had some help by my wife.
3) The murder of Bengt Andersson (Ball-Bengt) is quite vicious. Is it a case of the more bizarre the murder the better people enjoying reading about it?
A little bit yes. But for me, the murder itself is always secondary to theme, story and character. I wanted to give an image of a total outcast, loneliness and vulnerability.
4) You allow Ball-Bengt to ‘speak’ to Malin after he is dead. Why did you decide to give him a ‘voice’ in the book?
He is the victim for starters, and victims seldom get a voice, either in fiction or real life. And I also wanted to add a touch of magic to the sometimes under rated crime genre. He also works as the chorus in a Greek tragedy, leading the story forward. As a character he symbolizes man at his most lonely and desperate. I think it gives the story atmosphere and a feeling of open space, a world without a roof.
5) The Murvall’s are a curious bunch and bring a new dimension to the book. Did you enjoy creating them?
Very much so. My childhood land was full of these outsiders, living on the fringe of society according to their own rules, constantly at war with every one, sticking together in a world that did not want them.
6) With Larsson and ‘The Killing’, can you explain why there is such a worldwide feeding frenzy for Swedish crime right now?
Success creates success. And there are quite a few good writers, since almost all really good Swedish writers write in the genre. It’s the only way to support yourself as a writer. It’s also exotic and does not fit with the image of Sweden as the perfect safe, boring country and it is still new. We love the new.
7) Malin has a complicated emotional side to her. Will this slowly be revealed in future books?
Yes, very much so. For me it is a joy to follow her as a writer. Nowadays it is as if she creates her own story and life. I’m just the medium!
8) You were once a journalist and ‘Midwinter Sacrifice’ has a journalistic feel to the writing. Was this deliberate?
No. But I think both epic journalism and crime stories benefit from clear ideas and strong classic drama.
9) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
The Asphalt Jungle by John Huston from the W. R. Burnett novel of the same name.
10) What is your ultimate favourite read crime of all time?
Either Walter Mosley’s, ‘Devil in a Blue Dress’ or James Ellroy’s, ‘The Black Dahlia’.