Midwinter Sacrifice by Mons Kallentoft



It is the coldest February in recent memory. In the early hours of a particularly cold night, the body of an obese man is found hanging from a lone oak tree in the middle of the withered, windswept plains of Östergötland.

The young superintendent Malin Fors, a single mother plagued by personal tragedies, is assigned to the case. Together with her colleagues from the Violent Crime Squad at the Linköping Police Department, she must track down the identity of the man in the tree and the reason why he ended up there. And at the same time they must follow in the frigid wake of a killer – a manhunt that takes Malin Fors into the darkest corners of the human heart.

Linköping, one of Sweden’s most advanced centres of technology, medicine and scholarship, is surrounded by a landscape of plains and forests, where time often seems to have stood still.

'A must for the fans of Swedish crime novels.' Globe and mail, Canada

'One of the best-realised female heroines I've read by a male writer'. Guardian

'Midwinter Sacrifice is utterly gripping, with a superb plot. It is tense, dark, and suspenseful. I loved it. With her many personal problems, Malin makes for an intriguing and sympathetic character. Kallentoft's story is, I think, even better than Steig Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.'Richard, Richard and Judy's Book Club

'The highest suspense'. Camilla Läckberg, international bestselling author

'If you chose to read just one book this summer - read Mons Kallentoft's Midvinterblod (Midwinter Sacrifice)' Magnus Utvik at Swedish Television

'There are traces here of Karin Fossum, and even John Boorman’s film Deliverance, when a mentally unstable group of brothers and their dominant mother cause havoc on the plains of Linköping.' Mats Johnson, Göteborgs-Posten

'This is no nervous beginner who steps onto the mystery stage. Mons Kallentoft uses language forcefully and knows that he has a good story to tell. (...) Kallentoft has literary ambitions, and the lack of the genre’s more common clichés make the reading enjoyable; his storytelling talent and ability to build suspense-filled scenes are definitely entertaining. (...) Malin Fors is an interesting acquaintance to make. She is a single mother with a fairly good relationship to her ex-husband, maybe a little too fond of tequila, but with an inner drive to discover the truth that a good police officer must have. Her parents, who live on Tenerife, hover like a thundercloud in the background. Her colleagues with the Linköping police force are like most people; they sing in choirs, look after their children and go on vacations. If I continue to read Mons Kallentoft’s books about Malin Fors, maybe I’ll also discover the ultimate solution to the puzzle. It’s in the air.' Borås Tidning

'Even Mons Kallentoft has realized that the language in a mystery story does not have to be one-dimensional and totally focused on suspense. His first novel about Linköping police officer Malin Fors is definitely one of this spring’s highlights. Kallentoft succeeds in chiselling out a singular and suggestive mood, conveyed with an unusually confident sense of style.' Svenska Dagbladet

'Mons Kallentoft is a reliable author. He observes with a reliable eye and writes with a reliable hand. Midvinterblod (Midwinter Sacrifice) is a sturdily built novel.' Svenska Dagbladet

'After his prize-winning debut with the thriller Pesetas and two novels that examined contemporary culture’s obsession with superficiality and consumption, author Mons Kallentoft is back with a new novel called Midvinterblod (Midwinter Sacrifice). The genre? Mystery – of course, one is tempted to add. The new book is the first of three promised with Detective Inspector Malin Fors of the Linköping police force in the leading role. 

During the coldest winter in memory, a hanged man is found dangling from a tree out on the plain. He had also been severely beaten. A suspicion of ritual murder is quickly formed. But who would want to murder Bollbengan - a loner and town eccentric? It soon becomes apparent that he didn’t lack tormentors. He was abused by young people and adults alike, mainly verbally. The fact that he "smelled like piss” seems to be an established truth, along with other hard ‘facts’, produced by local gossip. However, based on the modus operandi, the police suspect that sect-related violence may be involved, perhaps some crazies who believe in the old Asa gods. 

I won’t reveal more of the plot here. Even if it is exciting and well constructed, there are other aspects of the novel that are even more exciting. Above all, I’m referring to Kallentoft’s use of language. It is far removed from the journalistic reporter style that so dominates the genre today. Kallentoft commands a broad register, from high-octane exciting prose to lyrical meditative prose, from brisk dialogue to sophisticated inner monologue. Language is really put to good use in this novel.

     Another strength is the depictions of characters and environments. Even though some of the cast of characters could easily serve as stereotypes for white trash families or divorced cops with drinking problems, Kallentoft still treats all the figures in his novel with sensitivity and inquisitive respect.

Nature also plays an important part of the story, and not just as a backdrop or a setting, but as a landscape generating symbolism and saturated with significance, filled with signs waiting to be interpreted. 

It sounds hardly original that the theme of the book is evil. But the author manages to extract, if not something new, then at least something highly absorbing and poignant with his study of man’s darker side.
  With Midvinterblod (Midwinter Sacrifice), Mons Kallentoft takes a firm grasp on the classical Swedish police genre. Its 430 pages can be directly traced back to Sjöwall/Wahlöö and those who came after them. It has everything that we’ve come to expect from a Swedish police story. Focus is on the hardworking police force. A gruesome murder is to be solved, and slowly but surely the pieces fall into place.
     Mons Kallentoft is a reliable author. He observes with a reliable eye and writes with a reliable hand. Midvinterblod (Midwinter Sacrifice) is a sturdily built novel. (...) If Malin Fors is one of the book’s main characters, the city of Linköping is the other, at least for those of us who wander in the shadow of the cathedral on a daily basis. We are presented with a city caught in frozen grasp of winter and Mons Kallentoft’s descriptions are right on the money...(..)”
"The mystery genre moves in the highly charged situation between total control and unimaginable madness, between the crime and the punishment. This can be seen in both the plot and the language: there are those who control reality by objectively registering practical matters rather than inconceivable feelings, as if a detailed description of a cheese sandwich can conjure up the frightening reality of fumes that originate from a corpse. A fear of death? Sure, but now let’s concentrate solely on who killed this person, not on our own mortality. If. We. Only. Concentrate. On. One. Thing. At. A. Time. Then. We. Will. Be. Able. To. Deal. With. Reality. In Midvinterblod (Midwinter Sacrifice) Mons Kallentoft allows deliberate descriptions wobble, so that out of the corner of an eye you can sense other contexts, nastier truths. An incidental, resigned reply gives the awareness that what is being described may not be exactly everything that could be said. It is skilful and not just a little disquieting, a feeling of uneasiness slowly but steadily oozes through the pages. (...). But Mons Kallentoft dances an elegant dance of death on the verge of ruin that the mystery has become, allows weariness become part of the resignation of the main character, Malin Fors. The action takes place in Linköping, a town surrounded by snow-covered plains that could have come from the Coen Brothers movie, Fargo, although with different overtones. (...). But the originality does not need to be based on the choice of subject matter, the cast of characters or the plot. Instead, Kallentoft shifts the perspective ever so slightly, to a different language, a different mood. Only just enough so that one feels lost. It’s a new territory, that Linköping where Malin Fors lives.' Lotta Olsson, Dagens Nyheter




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