A thick and engrossing Swedish crime thriller, Cilla and Rolf Borjlind’s Spring Tide (Hesperus Press) is a cunningly character-driven work that opens the husband-and-wife team’s print career. Previously known as screenwriters who adapted the Martin Beck police procedural series (best known to American moviegoers as the inspiration for The Laughing Policeman) into film, the Borjlinds open their book with a grippingly appalling killing: a young pregnant woman is buried on the beach of a coastal island up to her neck as the tide starts to rise; as she’s drowning, she gives birth to a baby who miraculously survives.
The murder remains unsolved until 24 years later, when Police College student Olivia Ronning picks the case out of a batch of cold cases being offered for extra credit over the summer. The unsolved crime was one her late policeman father had worked on, and Olivia’s inquiries into it lead her into investigating many of his former colleagues – most notably a detective named Tom Stilton who left his job on the force for mysterious reasons.
Parallel to this case (and ultimately connected to it) are a series of homeless beatings taking place on the streets of Stockholm and an underground fighting ring involving children. Olivia’s investigations wind up drawing the attention of rich and powerful interests in the city, most notably the mining magnate Bertil Magnuson. Reopening the homicide puts both her and the re-emerging Stilton in jeopardy.
At 469 pages, Spring Tide is not a quick read, and though it’s broadly cast, the book’s authors are adept at keeping us in step with its myriad characters and multiple plotlines. As crime writers, the Borjlinds are especially attuned to the social aspects of their world: their glimpses into the lives of Stockholm’s homeless prove particularly affecting while their unsparing look at the other end of the economic spectrum is both empathetic and damning. Heroine Olivia is a wonderful detective creation – curious yet not fully schooled in the evil that men and women can do – while her ultimate partner Stilton turns out to be an even richer character, struggling with the demons of mental illness and poverty, slowly pulling himself out a dead-end existence.
A strong print debut for this writing team: recommended for those who enjoy a good twisty procedural and/or remember the Martin Beck books with fondness.
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