The Golden Calfby Helene Tursten
In this fifth installment in the critically acclaimed Irene Huss series, three men are found brutally executed in one of Goteborg's most fashionable neighborhoods. All three men were involved in an online poker company, but that's all they appear to have in common. The complex investigation immerses Detective Inspector Irene Huss and her colleagues into a world of expensive cars, fancy homes and impressive castles in the air.
Meanwhile, the normally peaceful atmosphere of the Huss family is disturbed by marital tension as Irene suspects her husband Krister of a having an affair with a younger woman.
"Huss and Persson are empathetic and attractive characters, willing to take the extra step to navigate the case’s Byzantine complexity."
—Adam Woog, The Seattle Times
"For decades the Swedes have excelled at crime fiction, which is often as gloomy as their long winter nights, filled with philosophical asides on life and politics. Procedure, rather than clues or flights of deductive fancy, are the usual hallmarks of a Scandinavian thriller. You'll find plenty of that in Helen Tursten's finely crafted novels but she also pays homage to the grand old form, down to a bit of old-fashioned alibi busting."
"Compelling characters and steady suspense make this a fine Nordic crime novel in the spirit of Henning Mankell and Karin Fossum."
“Both readers new to the series and avid fans will enjoy investigating this puzzling case with Inspector Huss.”
"If you are looking for an additional fix of Nordic crime fiction, I suggest you add Helene Tursten to your list.... The Golden Calf being more than a mystery; it is also, in part, a cautionary tale, one that resonates quietly long after the final paragraph is read."
—Joe Hartlaub, BookReporter.com
“The Golden Calf has a plot with more twists and turns than a mountain road high in the Andes, but while you're enjoying a devious storyline, there are always...characters that live and breathe on the page. Whenever I need a bit of a Scandinavian crime fix, it's always a pleasure to turn to Detective Inspector Irene Huss.”
Praise for the Irene Huss series
"As good as Louise Welsh's similarly creepy tour of Glasgow."
"These days Scandinavian crime writers are thick on the ground. It's nice to see that the women can be just as bloodthirsty as the men."
─The New York Times Book Review
Praise for Night Rounds
"A superior Scandinavian crime novel.... Tursten does an outstanding job of offering multiple plausible murders, making this the rare procedural that actually requires the reader to evaluate alibis, motives, and means to solve the case."
─Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
"I couldn't put down this finely crafted, Swedish procedural with its complex story line and heart-stopping climax."
Verdict The fourth book in Tursten’s series (after Night Rounds) is a well-crafted, if overwrought, keep-you-guessing mystery, stuffed full of intriguing characters, subplots, and extraneous details. Both readers new to the series and avid fans will enjoy investigating this puzzling case with Inspector Huss.Jennifer Rogers, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community Coll. Lib., Richmond
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Read an Excerpt
Detective Inspectors Irene Huss and Tommy Persson parked on the street between a blue-and-white patrol car and the anonymous car of the forensic technicians. The garage entrance had been blocked off by a sloppily parked silver Mercedes Cabriolet, its top raised.
The detectives hunched their shoulders against the harsh sea wind as they walked toward the front door. The house was brand new, but the surrounding grounds were nothing but clay and mud. One step off the stone pathway and a shoe would be sucked off by the muck. Despite the lack of landscaping, Irene saw that the location of the house was fantastic, high on a hill with a magnificent, wide-open view of Askim Bay. How could anyone afford property like this? The villa itself was all terra cotta brick and huge panes of glass. Obviously the architect had spared no expense.
Tommy stopped to take a good look at the Cabriolet. He gave a silent whistle and sent Irene a meaningful glance. They continued to the front door and rang the bell. A female officer opened the door immediately. She looked young and serious.
“Hi. I’m Tommy Persson, and this is Irene Huss from Violent Crime.”
“I’m Stina Lindberg,” the uniformed woman replied. “The technicians have just arrived.”
A baby was crying inside the house. Stina glanced nervously in that direction. “It’s the baby,” she explained. “Their baby…. His wife found him … her husband … when she got home.” Stina’s cheeks were pale, and she was obviously struggling to control her discomfort. A murder would rattle anyone, but everything was much worse when children were part of the picture.
A tall policeman in complete protective gear appeared in the spacious hallway. Both Irene and Tommy knew Criminal Inspector Magnus Larsson well and were happy to see him. As Irene and Tommy pulled on their own protective overalls, hats, plastic gloves, and booties, Magnus gave them the rundown.
“A woman called 112 and said she’d found her husband shot. We arrived within fifteen minutes of the alarm. She was calm at first, but she broke down after a few minutes. She had her mother’s telephone number programmed into her cell phone, so I’ve called her. Someone has to take care of the child. Her mother is on the way, but she was in Borås when I reached her.”
“Who lives here?” asked Irene.
“Sanna Kaegler-Ceder and Kjell B:son Ceder.”
The names felt vaguely familiar to Irene, but she couldn’t place them. She noticed that Tommy also reacted to the names, but before Irene could ask, loud shrieks from an unhappy baby echoed through the house. All three police officers hurried toward the noise.
The living room was large, with a huge glass wall facing the sea. Irene had been right—the view was fantastic. A young woman sat hunched in a round swivel chair covered in leather the color of eggshells. Eight identical chairs ringed an elliptical glass table, which sat on a matching shag carpet, which popped against the dark terra-cotta tile floor. Oversized modern oil paintings stood out against almost-pure-white walls.
Irene and Tommy nodded at two uniformed officers standing beside the woman before taking a closer look at the unmoving figure curled in the chair. Irene realized she had seen the woman’s face before. Again, she had no idea where or when.
Sanna Kaegler-Ceder stared into space with empty eyes. Her pale complexion and stiff expression made her face seem mask-like. At her feet was an infant in a blue corduroy baby bouncer. Irene guessed the baby was, at most, six months old. He was screaming, his face bright red from the exertion.
The glass wall continued to another doorway leading to an octagonal room enclosed in glass. In the center was a spiral steel staircase to the second floor. Sanna Kaegler-Ceder’s husband lay on his back at the foot of the stairs. The two technicians near him were setting up their camera equipment. They nodded to Irene and Tommy.
“We need fifteen minutes,” the older of the two said.
“That’s fine,” Tommy replied.
Irene walked to Sanna and lightly touched her shoulder. Sanna didn’t appear to notice.
“Hello,” Irene said softly. “My name is Irene Huss. Do you think your baby might want something to eat?”
The woman’s only reaction was a slight flutter of her eyelashes.
Irene sighed and picked up the wailing bundle of a baby. A noticeable odor cried out for a diaper change.
“Come on, Tommy. Help me find the changing table and some baby food,” Irene said with determination.
“It hasn’t been that long since you changed your own baby’s diapers.”
“You’re right. OK, off to find a dry diaper.” Tommy made a raspberry sound and tickled the baby’s tummy. The baby interrupted his crying to peer up at him.
After a few minutes of opening and shutting doors, they found a large bathroom with rose marble walls. There was an enormous changing table, complete with every possible item for baby care. The baby wore a soft denim romper suit and a light blue sweater with Made in New York written in flashy silver across the chest. As Irene lifted him from the table, his bottom dry, he began to fuss again. His hunger was making itself known.
Tommy had already gone to find the kitchen. When Irene, carrying the baby in her arms, followed, Tommy held up a bottle he’d found in the refrigerator in triumph.
“Hey, buddy! Now you’ll get some grub!” Tommy said as he began to heat the bottle in the microwave.
On the counter was a plastic bottle top, which Tommy screwed in place with a practiced motion. He instinctively checked the milk’s temperature against the inside of his wrist, then handed the bottle to Irene. Even though it had been years since his youngest child’s last bottle, the preparation routine came back quickly.
Irene looked down at the baby, who was greedily sucking down the milk. The ultra-modern kitchen glistened in glass and brushed steel. Irene looked for somewhere to sit down, but there were only tall stools next to a bar counter. Irene leaned against one of the stools as the little boy noisily slurped the last drops. Then she lifted him to her shoulder and patted him on his diapered bottom. A huge burp was her reward.
“Huss, now your jacket will look like a seagull pooped on it.” Tommy grinned. He found a roll of paper towels on a steel cylinder and helped Irene rub off the milk stain.
As they walked back to the living room, the baby fell asleep. Irene set him back into the baby bouncer and spread a soft, yellow blanket from a nearby chair over him.
Sanna hadn’t moved. She appeared catatonic. She wore light-brown pants and a cobalt-blue top with a deep décolletage. Between her breasts glittered a large cross with closely set white and blue gemstones. Their crystal clear sparkle could hardly have come from anything other than authentic sapphires and diamonds. Sanna Kaegler-Ceder walks around with a fortune around her neck, thought Irene. And her reserve capital is on her left ring finger.
One of the force’s crime scene technicians, Åhlén, stuck his bald head through the doorway to the octagonal room. He motioned to the officers, and Irene and Tommy walked over. As was his habit, Åhlén pushed his thick bottle-bottom glasses up his stubby nose with his left forefinger before he spoke.
“I’ve already secured the wife’s prints and taken her jacket. No apparent spatter, but we’ll have to wait for analysis. This is the scene of the crime. We haven’t found the murder weapon yet.”
“Are you absolutely sure this is the crime scene?” asked Irene.
“No doubt about it. See for yourself,” replied Åhlén, gesturing toward where the body lay stretched out.
Kjell B:son Ceder was well-dressed in a dark suit. Two bullet holes marked his forehead, and his head lay in a pool of blood. A broken glass lay on the floor nearby, and the unmistakable scent of whiskey hovered.
“He’s been dead for hours. Rigor mortis has set in completely,” the technician continued.
“Looks like an execution. Two shots right into the brain,” Tommy stated.
Irene was surprised at how much older than his wife Kjell B:son Ceder was. Even in death he was a good-looking man. His hair, though thickly matted with blood, was steel gray and full. All of a sudden, Irene realized where she’d seen him before: For the past few years, he had been the restaurant king of Göteborg. Irene’s husband was a head chef at a competing restaurant, so she’d often heard Ceder’s name. Krister worked at Glady’s Corner, one of the finest restaurants in Göteborg, with a star in the international restaurant guide. The other two starred restaurants in Göteborg were owned by Kjell B:son Ceder. One was located in the twenty-eight story Hotel Göteborg, one of Göteborg’s tallest buildings, which Ceder also owned. Whenever Irene was in her boss’s office, she would see the mighty silhouette of the hotel rising above the rest of the city from Superintendent Sven Andersson’s window. Slightly to the southwest, she could see the two Gothia Towers next to Svenska Mässan, the Swedish Conference Center. Gothia Towers also had a hotel and restaurant and was the main competitor of Hotel Göteborg.
“Stridner has promised to show up in all her imperial majesty,” Åhlén said. “If I’m not mistaken, here she is now.”
Irene and Tommy had also heard the energetic clack of high heels hitting the stone floor. No other person burst into a crime scene with quite the same tempo as Professor of forensic medicine Yvonne Stridner.
She swept through the entrance of the octagonal room, placed her bag on the floor, and took in the crime scene in one glance. Without greeting any of the officers, she got right to the point:
“Is this actually a murder?”
Irene, Tommy, and Åhlén all started in surprise. The Professor rarely asked questions. Usually, she imparted certainties and issued commands.
“He’s been shot. Two shots,” said Åhlén dryly.
Without further commentary, the Professor put on her protective gown, gloves, and plastic booties. Just like her not to bother with protective clothing before entering a crime scene, thought Irene.
Stridner tossed her cape over a chair with a black oxidized steel frame and white leather cushions. Perhaps it was more comfortable than it appeared. There were five more chairs like it in the room as well as a matching table and chandelier.
Stridner walked over to the body and began her investigation. Tommy nudged Irene with his elbow. “Let’s go and try to talk to Sanna Kaegler-Ceder again.”
Irene nodded. They could do nothing here until the body was removed, not even go up the spiral staircase to check the second floor.
Sanna Kaegler-Ceder was in the same chair, but she’d swiveled it toward the rain-streaked glass and was staring into the rapidly gathering twilight. The baby was fast asleep in his baby bouncer, blissfully unaware that he’d just become fatherless.
“Please forgive us for disturbing you at this sad time. My name is Tommy Persson, and I’m a detective. Are you able to answer a few questions?”
The woman did not move, just kept staring out at the autumn weather. When they were about to give up hope of response, she ducked her head slightly. Tommy interpreted this as a slight nod and asked a question quickly before she changed her mind.
“What time did you arrive home and find your husband’s body?”
The woman swallowed a few times, then managed an answer. “I called … right away.”
“The alarm came at four twenty-three p.m.,” Magnus Larsson interjected.
“And the first patrol car arrived no more than fifteen minutes later?” asked Tommy.
“Correct,” said the other detective.
Tommy turned back to Sanna and continued in a gentle voice, “Did you go to your husband before the police arrived?”
She shook her head slowly. “I saw that he was dead. All the blood....”
“Where were you standing when you saw him?”
“At the entrance....” Her voice failed her, and she swallowed hard.
“So you were standing at the entrance to this room?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
It didn’t seem possible, but the woman became even paler. Her lips turned blue-gray, and Irene saw that she was about to faint.
“Come, let’s have you lie down on the rug,” Irene said as she helped Sanna to the floor. She lifted Sanna’s lower legs a few centimeters, and the color slowly began to return to the woman’s face. After a few minutes, Sanna said, “I’d like to sit up again.” Irene helped her back into the chair. The young woman was still so pale that her face appeared to blend into the white leather. There was no question that she’d received a shock, though there was always the possibility she was reacting to committing a murder.
“When did you leave the house today?” asked Tommy.
“I didn’t leave it today. The last time was yesterday afternoon.”
“At what time?”
“Around four. We went to my sister’s place to spend the night.”
“Did you take your son with you?”
“So you spent the night with your sister?”
“Her husband was on call. We were both going to be alone that night anyway.”
“Do you know who your husband planned to meet yesterday evening?”
“No idea.” Her voice seemed tired and uninterested.
“When was the last time you spoke to your husband?”
“Yesterday at nine in the morning.”
“Did he say that he had to meet someone that evening?”
“Not that I remember.”
“Had you already made arrangements to spend the night at your sister’s, or did you just decide to yesterday?”
“I called her yesterday around lunch. We’d been talking about doing this—having a nice evening with some good food and wine. She’s also on maternity leave.”
“Did you call up your husband and let him know that you were going to your sister’s?”
“Why didn’t you?”
“I’d told him that I might go when I talked to him on the phone that morning.”
“So you didn’t try to call him today?”
“No. He knew that Ludwig and I were at Tove’s and not at home.”
“Tove is your sister’s name?”
“Yes. Tove Fenton. Her husband is a doctor. He was on call....” Her voice sank to a whisper, and she didn’t finish her sentence. Before any of the other police officers could ask another question, a young policewoman came in. Up until then, she hadn’t moved from her post at the door. Irene remembered her first name was Stina, but she’d already forgotten her last name.
“The mother is here. That is, her mother.” Stina motioned toward Sanna. They could hear an agitated female voice at the outer door.
“I have to know what’s going on ... my daughter! And Ludwig....”
There was jostling at the doorway to the living room. Sanna’s mother was trying to push inside, but two officers were holding her back. She was not as tall as her daughter, but she had the same pale coloring. Sanna shakily got up and walked toward her mother on unsteady feet.
“My dearest Sanna! What has been going on? The police called....” Sanna’s mother stopped talking the moment she saw the expression on her daughter’s face. She stopped trying to force her way past the police. “Is it ... Ludwig?” she asked in despair.
“Why are you wearing that ugly jacket?” asked Sanna—then she fainted.
“He was shot at point-blank range,” Professor Stridner said. “The shots entered through the forehead, and I can’t see any exit wounds, so presumably the bullets are still inside the skull. This suggests a small caliber weapon.”
“When did he die?” asked Tommy.
“Rigor mortis has started to subside. He has been lying on a warm floor equipped with heating coils ... let’s say eighteen to twenty-four hours. I can’t be more precise than that.” Stridner was a consummate professional, and she continued in her matter-of-fact manner. “I knew Kjell when we were children. He was one year younger than I was, but we lived nearby growing up. We played together a lot.”
Irene was surprised by Stridner’s revelation. The victim was a childhood friend of the Professor’s! They’d played together? Had Stridner ever played like other children? Not just dissected dead frogs and small birds?
They stood now in the middle of the living room floor. Kjell B:son Ceder’s body had been removed to the pathology department’s morgue. Sanna, Ludwig, and Ludwig’s grandmother had gone to the Ceder family’s apartment in Vasastan. Apparently, they had kept the apartment even though they’d lived in this house for a while.
“Do you still see each other socially?” Tommy asked when he had recovered from his surprise.
“Now and then. My husband and I were invited to the hotel opening. Very elegant, I have to say. We also attended his wedding when he married Sanna. My husband and Kjell also know . . . knew . . . each other via Rotary. Small world.”
“Do you know if Ceder had been married before?” asked Irene.
“Did he have any children in that marriage?”
Stridner shook her head, and her red curls bobbed. “No. She died tragically in a sailing accident. They’d been married only two or three years.”
“Was that a long time ago?”
The Professor looked at Irene with irritation. “At least fifteen years ago. And why would this be important?”
“This means that Sanna and her son will inherit everything.”
Stridner gave Irene a long, thoughtful look. “Kjell is . . . was . . . always a lady’s man. He had many love affairs over the years. We never thought he’d ever marry again. He surprised everyone who knew him when he suddenly married Sanna Kaegler. His first wife was extremely wealthy, and he’d been living the playboy life for years. He didn’t just have the money she left him. He was quite successful in the hospitality business.”
“When did he and Sanna marry?”
“One year ago exactly. The end of September. There was a big party at the restaurant Le Ciel at Hotel Göteborg.”
“One year ago. Ludwig is six months old. Sanna must have been pregnant when they got married.”
“Yes, although it didn’t show. She was stunningly beautiful. But Kjell’s friends were more than wary about the whole thing. There were rumors about her questionable business affairs.”
“According to the media, she used to have enormous amounts of money,” said Tommy. “Do you know if she still has any left?”
“I have no idea. If she’d gone through it all, I imagine that would be a good reason to marry Kjell,” Stridner said. She glanced at her wristwatch. “I’ll try to take a look at him this evening, and tomorrow I’ll perform the autopsy. You’ll hear from me.” She tossed her last sentence over her shoulder on her way out. The sound of her voice died away in the hall, accompanied by the staccato of her heels.
Irene and Tommy climbed up the spiral staircase to the second floor above the octagonal room. Even up here, glass panels enclosed the entire space, which rose above the roof of the rest of the house. The architect had succeeded in evoking the airy feeling of being in a lighthouse.
“What a view! Imagine sitting here in the evening and watching the sun set into the sea,” Irene said as she looked out into the darkening evening.
“I’m glad I don’t have that view.”
“Too expensive. And look at all the booze you’d need.” Tommy grimaced.
He was probably right. The first thing they’d seen when they reached the top of the stairs was a well-stocked bar cart. A generously sized wicker sofa with puffy red cushions dominated the room. Two wicker chairs, in the shape of half-shells, hung from the ceiling. Irene was reminded of birds’ nests as she watched them sway in the breeze from the open door. Tommy went outside to take in the view from the small balcony that ran around the outer walls. He returned and closed the door behind him. The breeze died quickly.
“So, do you think Sanna did it?” Irene asked him.
“Statistically speaking, yep.”
“Åhlén didn’t see any spots on her jacket sleeves.”
“No, but maybe there were spots yesterday afternoon, if that’s when she shot him. If she shot him.”
Irene thought this over. “So, you think she shot Ceder, went over to her sister’s, spent the night there, and then returned the next day to ‘discover’ him.”
“Something like that.”
“We’ll have to talk to the sister and find out which clothes Sanna wore yesterday when she came over. And we have to check if anyone was in contact with Kjell after four o’clock yesterday afternoon.”
Tommy nodded. “Might as well get started,” he said.
“I’ll call Sven. He can ask Birgitta or someone else to get in touch with Ceder’s office and question his employees. You and I can certainly find that sister of hers. I’m sure there are’nt too many doctors by the name of Fenton.”
Sanna Kaegler-Ceder’s sister lived only a few kilometers south, just across the city limits into Hovås proper. Irene and Tommy turned into the small cul-de-sac ringed by single-family houses with big yards. The houses were a bit older, built in the fifties or sixties. The Fenton’s house was at the bottom of the street, and Irene guessed that it, too, had a view of the sea. Not that they saw anything of the water in the darkness and rain, but they could hear how the wind drove the waves and flung them crashing onto the shore. A clear scent of salt and seaweed hit Irene’s nostrils, and she took a few deep breaths. Her own townhouse was just two kilometers from the ocean, but the distinct aroma of sea air never made it all the way past the other neighborhoods between her place and the water.
The house was large and built in a bungalow style using dark-brown wood and white Mexican tiles. As Irene pressed the doorbell, she could hear children screaming happily inside the house. After Irene rang the doorbell a second time, a woman opened the door. For a confused moment, Irene thought she was looking at Sanna, but this woman had more crow’s feet around her eyes, revealing her as the older sister.
“Hello. I’m Detective Irene Huss. May my colleague, Tommy Persson, and I come inside for a moment?” Irene held out her hand to greet the woman.
“Just tell me what happened! My mother called. . . . ” Tove Fenton’s voice was shaking, and it was obvious she’d been crying, but she didn’t step aside to let them in.
“We’re here to tell you, but we’d prefer to come inside first,” Irene said calmly.
The woman reluctantly stepped out of the doorway. They could see a little girl with golden curls, about three or four years old, scampering naked through the hallway. She squealed happily, pulling a heart-shaped Winnie the Pooh balloon by a string. When the girl saw Tommy and Irene, she stopped and stared.
“Hello,” Tommy and Irene said in unison. They smiled and waved.
“Felicia! You’re supposed to be taking a bath! Get right back in the tub this minute!” Tove shrieked at the little girl, who looked at her mother in fright. “Are you listening?”
The mother stopped her frantic yelling abruptly when she saw a pool of urine forming at the girl’s feet. Tile floors are certainly practical, Irene thought. No one spoke and everyone heard the trickling sound get interrupted by the click of a key going into the front door lock. The door opened to reveal a man Irene assumed to be Dr. Fenton coming home.
He was a large man of about fifty, balding and somewhat portly. As soon as he saw the police officers, he held out his hand to greet them, something his wife had not yet done. His smile was wide and friendly, and his tan face looked pleasant and good-natured.
“Morgan Fenton,” he said with a British accent.
Irene and Tommy introduced themselves. From the corner of her eye, Irene could see Mrs. Fenton carrying away the crying child.
“My wife called me at the office, and I came as soon as I could. What happened to Kjell?”
The doctor had trouble pronouncing the name Kjell, but otherwise his Swedish was very good.
“I’d like to speak with you together once your wife is able to join us,” Irene said.
“Sure, sure. Go ahead and hang up your coats,” he said as he pointed to the hangers in the hallway.
He escorted them into a large living room. Here, too, an enormous glass window highlighted the magnificent ocean view, and Irene could just make out a generous terrace outside in the darkness. The room had Chesterfield sofas and a table and cupboards in dark, polished wood, and its focal point was a large, open fireplace. Combined with the paintings and textiles, the furnishings gave a distinctive English feel. The contrast between the two sisters’ living rooms was striking. Dr. Fenton must have actively taken part in the interior decoration. It was classically English and a bit old-fashioned.
Irene and Tommy sat down in leather armchairs as Tove came into the living room, a red flush spreading from her neckup to her cheeks.
“Tell me right now what’s going on!” she demanded.
“We must ask you a few questions before we can go into detail,” Irene said mildly.
Tove Fenton struggled with her impatience as she looked at Irene expectantly.
“Could you tell me what time your sister arrived here yesterday?” Irene began.
“Right after four in the afternoon,” Tove replied promptly.
“What was she wearing?”
“Wearing? Her brown mocha outfit.”
“What does it look like?”
“Pants and a short jacket in light-brown mocha. Why do you need to know?”
“Routine. How did she seem?”
“What do you mean?” Tove was tense, and her face revealed her irritation. In the background, children were screaming with increasing volume, which seemed unsettle her even more.
Dr. Fenton stood up. “My dear, let me take care of them.”
Tove sat down in the space her husband had vacated. She crossed her arms tightly across her chest as if she were trying to hold on to the last bit of warmth her body had.
“Was she upset? Worried? What was her mood?”
“No, she was just like normal.”
“Did she surprise you, or were you already planning for her and the baby to come over?”
“We’d talked about having a nice evening together on one of Morgan’s on call nights. Yesterday, Sanna called me up, and we decided it was a good night.”
“According to your sister, you enjoyed some good food and wine.”
“So it was just the two of you?”
“And the children, of course.”
“The children are still quite young.”
“Well, Ludwig, Felicia, and Robin are still small, but Stoffe . . . Christopher . . . was also here.”
“Who is Christopher?”
“Morgan’s son. He’s fifteen.”
“Does he also live in this house?”
“Every other week. This week he’s here.”
Irene made a mental note that she’d also have to question Christopher to check on timing. “Is he home right now?”
“No, but he’ll be here any time. He has hockey practice.”
“Did Sanna call her husband on the phone at any time while she was here?”
Tove appeared to think this through carefully, but finally she just shook her head.
Dr. Fenton returned to the living room with a wide-awake baby in his arms. The baby was a few months older than Ludwig, and Irene realized this must be Robin. He looked tired as he leaned his fuzzy head against his father’s chest and sucked hard at his bottle. The smacking sound rang through the room.
Irene explained what had happened to Kjell. Tove threw her hands up over her face and began to wail. Her husband turned white.
“Good Lord! Murdered!” he exclaimed.
Tommy asked, “Have either of you heard anything about Ceder being threatened?”
“No, never, although there are some tough characters in the restaurant business,” Dr. Fenton replied.
Tove let her hands fall away from her face. She glared accusingly at Tommy.
“That’s why you were asking about Sanna! You believe she did it!” Her voice rose hysterically. “She most definitely did not! She couldn’t have—she was with me!”
Her husband laid a protective arm around her shoulders while simultaneously trying to calm his tiny son, who had responded to his mother’s cries with his own.
From the corner of her eye, Irene caught the flash of a disappearing face near the entrance to the living room. She rose quickly and followed the shadow. On the other side of the kitchen, a door was being carefully and quietly shut. She strode to the door and knocked. Then, without waiting for an answer, she walked in.
Christopher Fenton was almost as tall as she was and bulky despite his age. He was going to be a good-looking man once his acne cleared up. Irene hoped he’d change his style in clothing from baggy pants and Fubu T-shirts to something more fitting by then.
“Hello. My name is Irene Huss, and I’m a police detective. My colleague and I are investigating a serious crime.”
The boy didn’t move, just glared at her. Since Irene was used to teenagers, both her own and others’, she wasn’t thrown off. “We’ve just begun our investigation, and we need to find a few witnesses to fine-tune the timeline. We have to check some alibis and that kind of thing. Totally routine. You’d be a real help to us if you let us ask you a few questions.”
Irene saw his attitude soften out of pure curiosity. She was always amazed that a few words of police jargon had the power to provoke curiosity in all kinds of people, no matter their age.
Irene took a quick look around the messy room. The bed hadn’t been made, and on the overloaded desk, there was a computer surrounded by a scattered heap of empty potato chip bags. It was hard to walk without stepping on clothing, comic books, CDs, or just plain garbage. There were a number of posters on the walls: hockey stars and hip-hop groups as well as a few of Britney Spears in various stages of undress. The room smelled of a teenager at the peak of puberty.
Mostly for effect, Irene took out her little notebook and a pencil with a broken point. That didn’t matter, since Irene didn’t expect to write anything down. In her most official tone, she asked, “When did you arrive home last night?”
The teenager shrugged. “Don’t know.”
“Your best guess?”
“Maybe, like, four-thirty?”
“Was Sanna Kaegler-Ceder here when you arrived?”
“Yeah. Her car is sick!” For a second, he forgot to be cool.
“It’s an unusual automobile.” Irene was non-committal.
“You can’t buy CLK-class in Sweden! You got to, like, import it from the US,” Christopher said.
“Really? She must be really rich.”
“Her old man has got it made.”
Irene pretended to write that down in her notebook. Then she asked, “So, were you home the rest of the evening? In this house?”
“Were you with Tove and Sanna?”
Irene realized that she’d implied something she hadn’t meant to. The boy stared at her. “What the fuck! I’m not with either of them!”
“No, of course not. I just wanted to know if you knew where they were the rest of the day. Did they leave the house that afternoon or evening?”
“No, don’t think they did. I heard them, like, laughing and shit.”
“You weren’t with them when they had dinner in the kitchen?”
“No, I ate in here. I was on the computer.”
Irene looked toward the desk and noticed it was by the room’s only window. “Would you have noticed if the Mercedes drove away during the evening?”
“Yeah, of course. It was right there, like, where your car is.” He nodded toward the window. She could see their police car beneath the circle of light from a streetlamp.
“So what happened? Why is Tove crying?” Christopher asked abruptly.
“Sanna’s husband Kjell is dead. He was shot—murdered.”
Christopher stared at her for a long time. The gangly teenager showed no fear or sorrow, but rather curious interest, as if the murdered man had been a character from a television show and not a person he knew.
“What did you think about Kjell B:son Ceder?”
Christopher shrugged again. “Hardly knew him. I saw him, like, two or three times.”
Perhaps this explained why the boy didn’t seem perturbed by the news.
“Can you remember what Sanna was wearing last night?”
He thought for a moment. “Some kind of brown pants and a blue T-shirt.”
“Was it the blue blouse cut low in front?”
“Yeah.” The boy blushed. Irene realized that Sanna certainly could not have left the house without Christopher knowing about it. Irene couldn’t think of any more questions, so she thanked Christopher for his helpfulness.
Back in the living room, Tommy stood by the doors to the deck talking to Dr. Fenton. Tove was on the sofa with her baby on her lap. Both of them had calmed down, and the baby was nearly asleep. Tove looked up at Irene.
“So I see you talked to Christopher,” she stated flatly.
“That’s right. He confirmed that Sanna was here from four thirty in the afternoon and on through the rest of the evening.”
“That’s exactly right,” Tove said, content. She stood up and perched her baby on her hip. “I’m just going to give Robin another bottle and put him down for the night. Then I’m going to my mother’s to be with her and Sanna.”
In the car, Tommy rehashed his conversation with Morgan Fenton.
“Fenton told me that he’d known Ceder for quite a few years. He also told me that Sanna knew Ceder for a long time before they became a couple and decided to get married. They met while Sanna worked in the finance industry. If I understood him correctly, Fenton has a brother who worked for a London bank that had invested in Sanna’s high-tech business. Ceder also knew this brother, and the two were partners when Hotel Göteborg was built. It was all a little muddled, but I think I got the gist of it.”
“Hmm. So there were a number of connections before Sanna and Ceder had their unexpected wedding—a bank in London where Fenton’s brother is employed, and the friendship between Morgan Fenton and Sanna’s soon-to-be husband, Kjell.”
“So it appears.”
“I bet Fenton put his sister-in-law in contact with his brother at the London bank.” Irene was thinking out loud.
“That’s pretty obvious. But Fenton said he was surprised that Ceder had been shot at his home in Askim and not his apartment in the city. It sounds like Ceder was seldom at the house.”
“According to Fenton, Ceder didn’t much care for the house. It was mostly Sanna’s creation. She wanted a more child-friendly place to raise her son.”
“So Ceder had the house built for Sanna and her baby?”
“That’s what I got from Morgan.”
“Strange. That place is practically a mansion. It must have cost—” Irene stopped in the middle of a sentence as a thought hit her. “Do you think that they might have been thinking of a divorce?”
“Sanna would have been better off as the widow of a rich man than as a divorced single mother.”
“Again, it’s possible.”
“You said yourself that statistically she’s the most likely suspect. In that case, she must have shot him before she headed over to her sister’s place. Christopher had a good view of the car because it was parked right outside his window. And he said he heard the sisters laughing and chatting all evening.”
“So where’s the weapon?”
“No idea. We’ll have to search the along the road between the two sisters.”
“We still don’t know the exact time he was killed.”
“No, we don’t, but I put my money at four o’clock yesterday afternoon.”
Meet the Author
Helene Tursten was a nurse and a dentist before she turned to writing. Other books in the Irene Huss series include Detective Inspector Huss, The Torso, The Glass Devil, Night Rounds, The Fire Dance, and The Beige Man. She was born in Goteborg, Sweden, where she now lives with her husband and daughter.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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It is really refreshing to read a Scandinavian police procedural that is a straightforward investigation of a crime or murder, peopled by uncomplicated detectives. Such is this novel, the fifth in the Detective Inspector Irene Huss mystery series, which begins with one murder and is followed by more which eventually prove to be related. The first victim is a wealthy restaurateur, found by his wife with two bullet wounds in his head. Another three murdered persons are found with the same wounds. The only thing apparent initially is the first victim’s wife, who also was a business associate in a dot-com venture with the three later victims. The question immediately arises, is she the murderer or possibly the next victim. And the plot unfolds. Huss is a complex character, competent detective, mother of twins, and wife of a celebrated chef. The author painstakingly creates a satisfying police procedural, weaving together a believable story woven from a set of facts that are derived from a combination of financial fraud, organized crime and just plain human emotions. It is written simply and translated well, and is recommended.