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1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Ninth Grave by Stefan Ahnhem

ninth-graveThe Ninth Grave (Fabian Risk #2)
Stefan Ahnhem
Head Of Zeus
2017, 551p
Copy courtesy of Harper Collins AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Two countries in the grip of winter…

On the coldest day of the year, Sweden’s Minister for Justice steps out of Parliament House and into a blizzard – and disappears. That same night, across the Baltic Sea, a Danish celebrity finds a stranger lurking in her snow-bound home.

Two killers stalk the streets…

One is a srugeon who carefully dissects his victims. The other is a brutal predator who targets women. Police in Stockholm and Copenhagen are closing in on their suspects. But as winter darkens and more people die, their investigations begin to unravel.

Sometimes murder is just the beginning…

I was super keen for this next installment in the Fabian Risk series. The first book, Victim Without A Face ended at a pretty interesting place and I was really excited to see what happened next. So I was a bit confused when this began and Fabian was somewhere else. It took me a little while to realise that although this is book 2, it’s set before book 1. The events in this novel are how Fabian came to be back in his hometown at the beginning of the previous book, it explains more of the situation between Fabian and his wife….and also gives a better idea about the ‘other woman’ situation.

Fabian is called in to discreetly investigate the disappearance of the Swedish Minister for Justice, who stepped outside in a blizzard. There was a car waiting for him but the Minister disappeared and hasn’t been seen since. Meanwhile in Denmark, young female detective Dunja has been given the lead on an investigation into the brutal murder of the wife of a Danish television star. Much to her colleagues chagrin, Dunja has been placed in charge by her sleazy boss, whom she suspects might have ulterior motives.

It doesn’t seem possible that the disappearance of a Swedish politician and the savage murder of a woman in Denmark could be linked. But as the bodies keep piling up, soon both Fabian and Dunja, working different cases, discover that the victims are each missing something. In this case, it’s what is missing that helps complete the full picture.

It’s so nice to get a lot of the backstory that set up Victim Without A Face. You can tell that Fabian is under a huge amount of pressure, both at home and at work. His wife Sonja is an artist who is working day and night to finish her latest pieces in time, leaving Fabian to do the bulk of the parenting at home. Given that Fabian is out at all hours doing his job, this doesn’t generally work too well. The oldest child Theodor is about 13 in this novel and there are clearly some inklings that things are amiss with him. Their daughter Matilda is younger and her creatively artistic drawings for school depict the cracks that are running through the marriage of Fabian and Sonja. Most of the time Matilda is left in the care of a negligent babysitter or her distant older brother as Fabian searches for evidence, follows up hunches and takes women out to dinner. Fabian is the sort of person that is always going to get results in the cases he investigates but probably not without large amounts of collateral damage, some of that being the emotional development of his own family.

The plot is intricate….very intricate but it’s woven together incredibly well. As well as Fabian and Dunja, the reader is also treated to the thought processes of some of the victims as they struggle to piece together what is going on or in some cases, accepting their fate as perhaps a debt owed. Something that has finally caught up with them. That was really interesting and as the story unfolded and the pieces came together, it suddenly took on a whole new meaning. I don’t mind a non-linear timeline and I really liked the extra points of view. There are even some chapters that take place from the perspective of the killer(s) although it’s up to the reader to interpret who in particular is responsible for what.

As well as getting a lot more insight into Fabian and his family dynamic here, likewise we are treated to equally the same amount of Dunja’s backstory. She was one of my favourite characters in the first book and I really saw here how much she has put up with in order to have and hold her job. Her boss is an odious creature, her two colleagues resentful when she is put in charge, one so much so that his attitude towards her nearly results in her death when he ignores her call for help. There’s no doubt that Dunja is actually incredibly capable of running the investigation, despite the hindrances from her boss and her colleagues. However they assume she’s been put in charge because her boss either is sleeping with her, or intends to use his decision as leverage to be sleeping with her. They ignore her when she suggests that a closed case doesn’t feel ‘right’ and that there’s more to it. She has good instincts and after book 1 I’d hoped she’d be working with Fabian. Now I’m even more sure that it needs to happen.

The first two books in this series have both been winners for me. It’s been a while since I’ve started a new Nordic crime series but this reminds me why I’m such a fan of them. I know there’s a third book but I’m guessing it’s going to be a year or so before we see it released in English…..which isn’t fair because I’d really like it now, please.


Book #26 of 2017

Antique Maps of the WorldMap of EuropeNicolas Visscherc 1658

Antique Maps of the WorldMap of EuropeNicolas Visscherc 1658

This is the first book I’m counting for my European Reading Challenge 2017! It is mostly set in Sweden but also includes Denmark.

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Review: Victim Without A Face by Stefan Ahnhem

victim-without-a-faceVictim Without A Face (Fabian Risk #1)
Stefan Ahnhem (Translated from Swedish by Rachel Wilson-Broyles)
Head of Zeus
2016 (originally 2014), 550p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Detective Fabian Risk returns to his hometown to resolve a string of hideously inventive murders. The sensational debut from the new star in Nordic Crime Fiction.

The first victim was a bully who liked using his fists. The second was a thug who favoured steel-capped boots. Their bodies bore the marks of a killer who knew their sins. A single clue was left at the scene: a class photo from 1982, with two faces neatly crossed out.

There are eighteen men and women in the photo who are still alive – and one of them is the lead detective on the case. Fabian Risk thought he’d left his schooldays behind. Now his classmates are dying for the sins of their childhood… Who is the faceless killer who’s come back to haunt them?


I received the second in this series for review and was originally going to see if I could borrow this one from my local library but then I happened across it randomly in a bookshop so I bought it. I’m pretty glad I did because even if this particular story isn’t referenced in the second book, it certainly gives quite a lot of background on Fabian Risk and his family and I believe all of that will be pretty useful when reading the second book.

Detective Fabian Risk, his wife Sonja and their two children are moving back to Fabian’s hometown. Previously they’d been living in Stockholm and the circumstances surrounding Fabian’s decision to move home and take a job in the local police are a bit murky. There’s the suggestion that Fabian is a bit of a rogue cop, the lone wolf type who although they’re good at their job, the result comes by way of hunches, individual investigation and probably a few legally grey areas. Although he’s supposed to take a couple of weeks vacation before starting in his new position, the gruesome murder of a former classmate of Fabian’s has him pulled in right away first as a way to get some information and then to officially be part of the investigation. It seems as though this classmate may be just the first victim and that others in the class are potential targets.

Fabian is one of those enigmatic, slightly douchey characters that knows something is wrong at home but pretends that it isn’t. There’s clearly some discord between him and his wife and this move back to his hometown is something of a fresh start. And there’s clearly a woman involved, back in Stockholm but to what extent isn’t made clear. Although Fabian seems to love his wife and absently love his children, he is also a workaholic who seems barely present in their lives. It’s always about the job, which is incredibly demanding and takes him away from his family for most hours of the day. Even when he’s supposed to be on vacation. Even when he’s been “excused” from the case. Fabian’s dedication and his brain work in interesting ways. He doesn’t always get it right….in fact there are a couple of mistakes and missed opportunities here where the end result is pretty catastrophic. But he keeps thinking, keeps digging until eventually he gets it.

I don’t particularly judge him for not knowing what was going on with his son. Theodor is a teenager who has pretty much removed himself from the family, spending time in his room thumping loud angry metal (Theodor it seems, is a refugee from the late 90s with Marilyn Manson, Metallica and Slipknot his angry bands of choice) playing CoD. He grunts at his parents when spoken to and considers most family outings “lame”. However, Sonja seems like a bit of a hovering parent, the one who is always all over it and a bit reluctant to cut the apron strings so I was pretty surprised when she took off with Matilda late in the book and left Theodor at home with a father who is out until all hours. Fabian also relies on texts to communicate with Theodor – it takes him god knows how many days to actually push open the door to his son’s room and attempt to lay eyes on him. Although he’s a teen, he’s only 14 so at the younger end of the scale. I know for sure I would not have been afforded such a freedom at that age….and perhaps if Fabian had been a little more vigilant, things would not have happened.

I don’t know much about Scandinavian relations but quite a lot of the book is structured around a reluctance to co-operate between Danes and Swedes when the suspect crosses borders. There’s a general disdain it seems from the Danish and there are police officers that delight in making it as difficult as they can for the Swedish team, heading up most of the investigation. This is something that appears to continue into the next book, given the blurb I’ve read. One of the most interesting characters is a Danish policewoman who kind of “breaks rank” and I hope that she’s going to be in the next book. I’d really like it if she were working with Fabian in his colleagues because she has all the makings of a great partner for him. She’s as reckless and rogue as he is in a lot of ways and I really enjoyed the parts of the book where she featured.

The story is delightfully twisty – some are quite predictable but then it takes a bit of an unexpected turn which was good. And the crimes are very gruesome and meticulously planned but I have to admit, I kind of queried the motivation. It just didn’t seem to be enough – the first suspect, that motivation made a lot of sense. A huge amount of sense actually. But the first suspect is rarely ever the culprit and when they find another suspect, it just seems too bland, a bit unbelievable as the reason for wanting to murder 20+ people.

I was pretty hooked though and the way the story built was amazing. By the end of it I was turning pages so fast, I was desperate to know how it was going to end. The suspense was really very good and some of the big reveals were very well orchestrated. I am definitely looking forward to the next book. I was going to read something else before I picked it up but I really want to find out how Fabian’s mental state is so I think it’s going to be my next read.


Book #25 of 2017


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