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“One of those books that will keep you up throughout the night. . . Make room on your shelf—and calendar—for this one.”
“Readers will look forward to the next three volumes.”
“Don't bother with Stieg Larsson... Kallentoft is better.”
What’s that rumbling, rolling sound?
Trying to get out?
It’s the sound of rain coming. Thunder. Finally, a drop of water upon the earth.
But Malin Fors knows better. The heat of this summer is devoid of mercy, has made up its mind to dry all the life out of the ground, and rain will be a long time coming.
Through the noise of the lingering customers, Malin can hear the pub’s air-conditioning unit rumble like thunder, shuddering, protesting at having to work such long, demanding shifts, that there doesn’t seem to be any end to the overtime this summer. The entire contraption seems on the point of collapse, its joints clattering, saying, “Enough, enough, enough. You’ll just have to put up with the heat or slake your thirst with beer. Not even a machine can go on indefinitely.”
Is it time to go home?
She is sitting alone at the bar. Wednesday has turned into Thursday and it is just after half past one. The Bull & Bear stays open all summer, and the dozen or so customers occupying the tables have fled the draining heat of the tables outside and taken refuge in the blissful cool indoors.
Bottles on shelves in front of mirrors.
Tequila. Cask-matured. Should she order a single? A double?
Condensation on glasses of freshly poured beer. The smell of sweat and rancid old spilled alcohol is clearly noticeable in the smoke-free air.
She sees her face in the mirrors in the bar, from countless angles as it is reflected and then reflected again in the mirror in front of her and the one behind her, above the green leather sofa.
A thousand reflections, but still one and the same face. Skin slightly tanned, her prominent cheekbones framed by a shorter blond pageboy cut than usual because of the summer heat.
Malin had gone down to the pub when the movie on television ended. It was something French about a dysfunctional family where one of the sisters ended up killing everyone. Psychological realism, the announcer had said, and that could well be right, even if people’s actions seldom have such clear-cut and obvious explanations in reality as they did in the film.
The flat had felt too empty, and she hadn’t been tired enough to sleep, but awake enough to feel loneliness dripping down the walls in almost the same way as the sweat now running down her back under her blouse. The increasingly tired wallpaper in the living room, the IKEA clock in the kitchen, whose second hand had suddenly fallen off one day in May, the blunt knives that could do with being honed back to finger-slicing sharpness, all of Tove’s books in the bookcase, her latest purchases lined up on the third shelf. Titles that would be advanced for anyone, but improbably difficult for a fourteen-year-old.
The Man Without Qualities. Buddenbrooks. The Prince of Tides.
Hello, Tove? Can’t you hear Marian Keyes calling you?
Infinitely better than a lot of things a fourteen-year-old could come up with.
Malin takes a gulp of her beer.
Still doesn’t feel tired.
But lonely? Or something else?
Summer lethargy at the police station, no work to tire her out, or that she could be swallowed up by. She had spent all day wishing something would happen.
But nothing had.
No bodies had been discovered. No one had been reported missing. No summer rapes. Nothing remarkable at all, apart from the heat and the forest fires that were raging up in the Tjällmo forests, resisting all attempts to put them out, and devouring more and more hectares of prime trees with every passing day.
She thinks about the fire brigade, working flat-out. About all the volunteers. A few police cars there to direct the traffic, but nothing for her or her partner, Zeke Martinsson, to do. When the wind is in the right direction she can smell the smoke from the fires, which seems only fitting seeing as the whole of Linköping is enveloped in a hellish heat, day and night alike, in the hot winds from the south that have parked themselves on top of the southern half of the country, as if they had been screwed down onto the landscape by the prevailing area of high pressure.
The hottest summer in living memory.
Malin takes another mouthful of beer. Its bitterness and coolness ease the residual heat in her body.
Outside the city is sweaty, tinted dull sepia, pale-green, and gray. Linköping is empty of people, and only those who have to work or have no money or no place to escape to are left in the city. Most of the university students have gone back to their hometowns. The streets are eerily empty even in the middle of the day, businesses stay open only because they have to, seeing as the summer temps have already been taken on. Only one business is booming: Bosse’s Ice Cream, homemade ice cream sold from a hole in the wall on Hospitalsgatan. Day after day there are queues outside Bosse’s; it’s a mystery how everyone gets there without being visible anywhere along the way.
It’s so hot that you can’t move.
A hundred, a hundred and one, a hundred and two degrees, and the day before yesterday a new local record was reached: a hundred and nine degrees at the weather station out on the plain at Malmslätt.
“Record-breaking heat wave!”
“Old record smashed.”
“This summer unlike any other.”
There’s a cheerfulness in the tone, an energy in the headlines of the Östgöta Correspondent that isn’t matched by the pace of life in this heat-stricken city.
Muscles protesting, sweat dripping, thoughts muddied, people searching for shade, coolness, the city drowsy, in sympathy with its inhabitants. A dusty, smoky smell in the air, not from the forest fires but from grass that’s slowly burning up without flames.
Not a single drop of rain since Midsummer. The farmers are screaming disaster, and today the Correspondent published an article by its star reporter, Daniel Högfeldt, in which he interviewed a professor at University Hospital. The professor said that a manual laborer in this sort of heat needs to drink between fifteen and twenty quarts of water a day.
Are there any of those left in Linköping these days?
There are only academics. Engineers, computer experts, and doctors. At least that’s what it feels like sometimes. But they aren’t in the city at the moment.
A gulp of her third beer gets her to relax, even though she is really in need of an energy boost.
The pub’s customers disappear one by one. And she can feel loneliness demanding more space.
Tove with her bag in the hallway eight days ago, full of clothes and books, some of the new ones she’s bought. Janne behind her in the stairwell, Janne’s friend Pecka down in the street in his Volvo, ready to take them to Skavsta Airport.
She had lied several days before they left when Janne asked if she could drive them, saying that she had to work. She wanted to be short with Janne, to show her disapproval that he was insisting on taking Tove with him all the way to Bali, on the other side of the fucking planet.
Janne had won the trip in the public employees’ holiday lottery. First prize for the heroic fireman.
A summer dream for Tove. For Janne. Just father and daughter. Their first real trip together, Tove’s first trip outside Europe.
Malin had been worried that Tove wouldn’t want to go, that she wouldn’t want to be away from Markus, her boyfriend, or because Markus’s parents, Biggan and Hasse, might have plans that involved her.
But Tove had been pleased.
“Markus will manage,” she had said.
“And what about me, how am I going to manage without you?”
“You, Mum? It’ll be perfect for you. You’ll be able to work as much as you like, without feeling guilty about me.”
Malin had wanted to protest. But all the words she could have said felt lame, or, worse still, untrue. How many times did Tove have to make her own meals, or go and put herself to bed in an empty flat simply because something at the station demanded Malin’s full attention?
Hugging in the hall a week or so ago, bodies embracing.
Then Janne’s firm grip on the handle of the bag.
“You too, Mum.”
“You know I will.”
Three voices saying the same word.
Then it had started up again, Janne had said silly things and she was upset when the door finally closed on them. The feelings from the divorce twelve years ago were back, the lack of words, the anger, the feeling that no words were good enough and that everything that was said was just wrong.
Not with each other. Not without each other. This single stinking love. An impossible love.
And she had refused to admit to herself how insulted she felt by their holiday, like a very young girl being abandoned by the people who ought to love her most.
“See you when I pick you up from the airport. But we’ll speak before that,” she had said to the closed gray door.
She had been left standing alone in the hall. They had been gone five seconds and already she felt an infinite sense of loss, and the thought of the distance between them had been unbearable and she had gone straight down to the pub.
Drinking to get drunk, just like I’m doing now, Malin thinks.
Downing a shot of tequila, just like I’m doing now.
Making a call on my mobile, just like I’m doing now.
Daniel Högfeldt’s clear voice over the phone.
“So you’re at the Bull?”
“Are you coming or not?”
“Calm down, Fors. I’m coming.”
* * *
Their two bodies facing each other, Daniel Högfeldt’s hairless chest beneath her hands, slipping moistly under her fingertips. I am marking you, Malin thinks, marking you with my fingerprints, and why have you got your eyes closed, look at me, you’re inside me now, so open your eyes, your green eyes, cold as the Atlantic.
Their conversation in the pub just ten minutes before.
“Do you want a drink?”
“No, do you?”
“So what are we waiting for?”
They took their clothes off in the hall. The church tower a black, immovable shape in the kitchen window.
And the sounds.
The ringing of the church bell as it struck two, as Malin helped him out of his worn white T-shirt, the cotton stiff and clean, his skin warm against her breasts, his words: “Take it slow, Malin, slow,” and her whole body was in a hurry, starting to itch and ache and hurt and she whispered: “Daniel, it’s never been more urgent than it is now,” thinking, you think I’ve got you for slow? I’ve got myself, other people for that. You, Daniel, you’re a body, don’t try to smooth talk me, I don’t fall for that sort of thing. He pushed her into the kitchen, the crippled IKEA clock ticking ticktock and the church gray-black behind them, the tree branches brittle with drought.
“That’s it,” he said, and she was quiet, spreading her legs and letting him get closer, and he was hard and rough and warm, and she fell back on the table, her arms flailing, that morning’s half-full mug of coffee sliding off onto the floor and shattering into a dozen pieces on the linoleum.
She pushed him away.
Went into the bedroom without a word.
He followed her.
She stood at the window and looked out at the courtyard, at the street beyond, at the few hesitant lights in the windows of the buildings.
Daniel’s body naked on the bed, his cock sticking up at a slight angle toward his navel. The gun cabinet with her service revolver on the wall next to the window, Daniel closing his eyes, reaching his arms up toward the pine headboard, and she waited a moment, allowing the ache of longing to become real pain before moving toward him, before she let him in again.
* * *
I dream that the snakes are moving again, somewhere. How a girl the same age as you, Tove, is moving through the green-black trees of something that seems to be a park at night, or a forest beside a distant, black-watered lake, or shimmering blue water that smells of chlorine. I imagine her drifting across yellowed grass, as far, far away a water sprinkler wisps corrosive drops above a freshly cut lilac hedge.
I dream that this is happening, Tove.
It is happening now, and I get scared and stiffen as someone, something creeps out of its hiding place in the darkness, rushing up behind her, knocking her to the ground, and the roots of the surrounding trees wrap around her body, snaking deep within her like warm, live snakes, whose slithering bodies are full of hungry, ancient streams of lava.
But no sound comes out.
And the snakes chase her across a wide-open plain that was once verdant but now whimpers with charred, flaking skin. The ground is cracked and from the jagged depths bubbles a stinking, hot, sulphurous darkness that whispers with a scorching voice: “We will destroy you, little girl. Come. We shall destroy you.”
But no sound comes out.
This is a dream, isn’t it? Tell me it’s a dream, Tove.
I reach out my hand across the sheet beside me but it’s empty.
Janne, you’re not there, your warm warmth.
I want you both to come home now.
Even you have gone, Daniel. Taken your cool warmth and left me alone with the dream and myself in this depressing bedroom.
I think it was a bad dream, but perhaps it was good?
Posted November 18, 2013
The author has conceived four novels based on the seasons of the year. The first took place during the cold months, “Midwinter Blood,” and this second during the hot months, with temperatures in Linkoping, Sweden reaching into the 90’s, 100 and even 100-plus F., made hotter by raging forest fires surrounding the town. The weather makes everyone sluggish, slow-thinking. But that doesn’t stop a series of brutal assaults and even murders of young, teenage girls.
Again featuring police superintendent Malin Fors, this second installment in the series examines her personal life as much as looking into the question of police prejudice in conducting the investigation into the identity of the serial killer (automatically, they look at previous sex offenders) when they face the lack of clues or forensic evidence.
While ostensibly a murder mystery, the novel is infused with lots of psychological insights into the various characters, especially Malin. The author uses the technique of observations, in italics, of the murdered girls to move the plot forward. Often, the effort is a bit disconcerting and unnecessary. Kallentoft writes with a heavy heart and, like other Scandinavian writers, delves into the mysteries of the occult and the harsh subject matter.
Only two more seasons to go.
Posted June 13, 2013
No text was provided for this review.