DOUBLE SILENCE

Written by Mari Jungstedt

Review written by Gwen Moffat

Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.


DOUBLE SILENCE
Corgi
RRP: £7.99
Released: 13th March 2014
Pbk

We plunge straight into a scenario that shrieks sexual psychopath, but the initial shock subsides to be replaced by modest suspense as the action shifts to Gotland. A closed circle of affluent professionals demonstrates such deep concern for each other that there's an unhealthy whiff in the air, the more so since they are about to spend a vacation together on an even smaller island.

On the eve of departure one wife senses that there has been an intruder in her house, another, a ravishing Yietnamese, is secretly thrilled that her life is about to change dramatically. A third, an ageing model, has become embarrassingly ribald in public. There are no shades in this novel, only monochrome, emulating Ingmar Bergman and the kind of old black-and-white movies which he made on the island of Faro: his former home and the destination of the three couples.

The husbands are a motley crew: film director, sales manager, American bar tender: colourless but unlike their wives, not obviously troubled. No one engages sympathy, they are like figures in a play who come to revolve round Knutas: a cop and Jungstedt's series character. For, shortly after they arrive on Faro, the domestic volcano blows its top.

The film director is pushed off a cliff, a murder witnessed by a surf boarder but too distant for him to identify the killer. Then the Yietnamese wife disappears and, later yet, giving the currents time to work, an old Swedish fisherman washes up on a Latvian shore, dead in his boat.

Knutas is the investigator, in harness with Karin Jacobsson, the one troubled with the state of his marriage, the other about to start a search for the daughter she relinquished at birth twenty years ago. With a cast of disturbed middle-aged players it's some relief that there's a pair of young journalists, the man trying to cope with paternity leave and a new baby, his photographer amoral, brash, committed only to the job, with jewelled nose studs to match her flamboyant nails.

The background of Double Silence is interesting: food, culture, bird cliffs, but the people don't blend. The murders are obvious, the motives mundane; even Knutas' involvement is prosaic. On sick leave having fallen off his roof when engaged in a spot of DIY, he relieves the tedium with his computer, solving the mystery and targetting the killer: an ant-climax echoed by Jacobsson's reunion with her daughter.

The style is homely: an American translating Swedish for a British-English (sic) audience: Scandi at a remove but hardly noir.

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