Deeds of Autumn by Anders de la Motte: An amalgam of suspense and festering secrets - book review -
The move to a new home and a new job in a rural area of Southern Sweden was supposed to be a much-needed fresh start for Stockholm detective Anna Vesper and her troubled teenage daughter.
The move to a new home and a new job in a rural area of Southern Sweden was supposed to be a much-needed fresh start for Stockholm detective Anna Vesper and her troubled teenage daughter.But the echoes of a 27-year-old tragedy – in which a local student died in mysterious circumstances – still haunt this close-knit community, and Anna has her own ghosts to banish. Are her hopes of finding peace of mind doomed from day one?If you thought a Swedish autumn brought only mellow mists, sunshine and golden hues, then you haven’t yet entered the spine-tingling world created by a former police officer who has magically morphed into a master storyteller.Deeds of Autumn is rural Scandi-noir at its best and the latest book in Anders de la Motte’s stunning Seasons Quartet, which includes the three standalone novels Rites of Spring, End of Summer and Dead of Winter, all number one bestsellers in Sweden, and all currently being published by Zaffre.Little surprise then that these enthralling books – flawlessly translated by Marlaine Delargy – have all earned their author a shortlisting for the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award for Best Crime Novel of the Year, and this atmospheric, autumn-themed mystery weaves between past and present as disturbing secrets from a decades old mysterious death still ripple through a small community.In the early autumn of 1990, five lifelong and recently graduated friends gather to swim, sunbathe and camp at the abandoned, water-filled Mörkaby quarry in the Skåne area of Sweden as a last farewell to their childhoods and each other.All aged nineteen, the three young men and two young women are in a joyful mood but, like the murky, forbidding and permanently cold water of the quarry, there are dark shadows under the surface of their celebrations and tensions that run deeper than many in their nearby home village of Nedanås would know about.Because not everyone in this friendship circle is ready to let go, or be left behind, and when dawn breaks, only four of the group remain alive.The police rule the death of child prodigy Simon Vidje a tragic accident, but not everyone is convinced that the mysterious demise of a teenager ‘destined to rule the world’ with his musical gifts was without suspicion, and the incident remains an open wound with many.In autumn of 2017, Skåne’s old chief of police is replaced by divorcee Anna Vesper, a newly arrived detective from Stockholm who is haunted by events in her own past and desperate to find a fresh start for both herself and her difficult, rebellious 16-year-old daughter Agnes who treats her mother with thinly veiled contempt.Having suffered a slight stammer all her life, Anna is a listener rather than a talker and is always alert to nuances of tone in others and the ‘involuntary micro-clues that human beings constantly give.’ And it doesn’t take her long to hear the whispers and rumours that still reverberate through Nedanås about the night that Simon Vidje died... and which can no longer be silenced.Soon she is left with no choice but to ignore all warnings and reopen the case. But someone will do anything to hide the truth of that fateful night and Anna desperately hopes that her own sins won't finally catch up with her.Deeds of Autumn is one of the classiest Scandi thrillers you will read this year… a mesmerising amalgam of suspense, festering secrets, and a wild and wonderful Southern Scandinavian rural landscape where the darkness of a terrible tragedy casts a long and disturbing shadow.And what a journey it is as De la Motte’s addictive mystery unfolds through the spectrum of troubled Anna, the clever, courageous police chief who is determined to seek out a final resolution to the death that shook an entire community whilst battling the anguish of her own demons.Breathtaking twists and turns tumble from the pages as we learn about hidden truths and the events of that long ago autumn evening while clues, suspects and false trails keep the reader guessing right through to the final jaw-dropping revelation.And as always with De la Motte, the sense of time and place is exquisitely wrought, the cast of vibrant, superbly drawn characters play their parts to perfection, and the acute psychological and social observations add emotional ballast to a thrilling plot.A top-notch addition to a series that offers a treat for every season!(Zaffre, paperback, £9.99)