Book review: The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe

Scandinavian noir just got darker, bleaker, more powerful and more thrilling'¦
The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla GrebeThe Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe
The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe

And it’s all thanks to Camilla Grebe, an acclaimed Swedish author more used to sharing the accolades with her sister Asa Traff in a sibling collaboration that has penned five celebrated crime novels, two of which were nominated for Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year.

In this stunning outing, Grebe flies solo for the first time with a gripping novel full of spine-tingling psychological tension, outrageous plot twists and a stellar cast of three fiendishly unreliable narrators, all linked by one horrific crime.

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Set in the midst of a misty, murky, rain-slushed Stockholm, this deeply disturbing and atmospheric tale of love, murder, betrayal and obsession moves as fast as a black mamba snake, and has a shock in its roguish tail that will take the breath away.

Winter’s chill has descended on the Swedish capital as police arrive at the scene of a shocking murder. A young woman is found beheaded in the marble-lined hallway of an upmarket suburban home, her head left standing as if it were growing from the floor, ‘like a mushroom.’

It’s a brutal crime, made all the more disturbing by its uncanny resemblance to an unsolved killing ten years earlier. But this time there is a suspect… Jesper Orre, the charismatic, scandal-ridden CEO of top retail chain Clothes & More, who owns the house but has now vanished without a trace.

To seasoned police detectives Chief Inspector Peter Lindgren and his sidekick Manfred Olsson, nothing about the suave, high-profile businessman – including a playboy reputation and rumours of financial misdeeds – suggests that he conceals the dark heart and twisted mind of a cold-blooded killer.

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In search of a motive, Lindgren and Olsson turn to the brilliant criminal profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schön to gain a window into the secret soul of Jesper Orre. Once a valued police asset, now marooned in unhappy retirement and a crumbling marriage to a control freak, Hanne is eager to exercise her incredible skills before she is consumed by early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Rewind two months earlier to meet Emma Bohman, a sales assistant for Clothes & More, whose life is turned upside down by a chance encounter with her boss Jesper Orre. Romance swiftly blossoms but he insists that their subsequent engagement is kept secret, and then he shakes Emma’s world a second time when he suddenly leaves her with no explanation.

As a series of frightening things begin to happen to Emma, she suspects that her runaway lover Jesper is responsible and her heartbreak turns to anger. But why does he want to hurt her? And how far would he go to silence his secret lover?

The Ice Beneath Her is a complex, intelligent, multi-layered thriller dripping in angst, mystery, suspense and dangerous unpredictability.

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The truth always remains a slippery commodity in this fascinating white-knuckle ride as Grebe takes us gently by the hand through a series of shocking revelations, and then propels us mercilessly into a maelstrom of secrets, lies, madness and vengeance.

Nothing is certain until journey’s end… and the final destination will not disappoint!

(Zaffre, paperback, £7.99)