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The Ice Beneath Her: A Novel
     

The Ice Beneath Her: A Novel

3.5 2
by Camilla Grebe, Elizabeth Clark Wessel (Translator)
 

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Acclaimed Swedish author Camilla Grebe makes her solo American debut with a psychological thriller as cunning in its twists as it is captivating in its storytelling—for fans of the celebrated crime fiction of Camilla Läckberg, Jo Nesbø, Ruth Ware, and Fiona Barton.

Winter’s chill has descended on Stockholm as police arrive at the scene

Overview

Acclaimed Swedish author Camilla Grebe makes her solo American debut with a psychological thriller as cunning in its twists as it is captivating in its storytelling—for fans of the celebrated crime fiction of Camilla Läckberg, Jo Nesbø, Ruth Ware, and Fiona Barton.

Winter’s chill has descended on Stockholm as police arrive at the scene of a shocking murder. An unidentified woman lies beheaded in a posh suburban home—a brutal crime made all the more disturbing by its uncanny resemblance to an unsolved killing ten years earlier. But this time there’s a suspect: the charismatic and controversial chain-store CEO Jesper Orre, who owns the home but is nowhere to be found.

To homicide detectives Peter Lindgren and Manfred Olsson, nothing about the suave, high-profile businessman—including a playboy reputation and rumors of financial misdeeds—suggests he conceals the dark heart and twisted mind of a cold-blooded killer. In search of a motive, Lindgren and Olsson turn to the brilliant criminal profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schön. Once a valued police asset, now marooned in unhappy retirement and a crumbling marriage, she’s eager to exercise her keen skills again—and offer the detectives a window into the secret soul of Jesper Orre.

But they’re not the only ones searching. Two months before, Emma Bohman, a young clerk at Orre’s company, chanced to meet the charming chief executive, and romance swiftly bloomed. Almost as quickly as the passionate affair ignited, it was over when Orre inexplicably disappeared. One staggering misfortune after another followed, leaving Emma certain that her runaway lover was to blame and transforming her confusion and heartbreak into anger.

Now, pursuing the same mysterious man for different reasons, Emma and the police are destined to cross paths in a chilling dance of obsession, vengeance, madness, and love gone hellishly wrong.

Advance praise for The Ice Beneath Her

Exceptional.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Fans of Scandinavian crime fiction, and crime fiction generally, will enjoy the understated, angsty drama created by Grebe; librarians desperate for Girl on the Train read-alikes can also turn to this for readers who enjoy an antiheroine.”Booklist

“Impressive . . . a tour de force that lifts its author to the front rank among the increasingly crowded field of Nordic noir.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Ice Beneath Her deserves to be called a page-turner—I read it in one sitting! The narrative is fast-paced and the twists superb.”—Cecilia Ekbäck, bestselling author of Wolf Winter

“Slowly and subtly, Camilla Grebe lets The Ice Beneath Her unfold into a multilayered, psychologically nuanced murder mystery in which the truth, rather than drawing nearer, keeps slipping further and further away—until it strikes with full force.”—Arne Dahl, bestselling author of Misterioso

“Tense, gripping, and utterly unpredictable . . . Camilla Grebe is an extraordinarily gifted writer and a master of suspense.”—Kristina Ohlsson, bestselling author of Unwanted

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 09/26/2016
The decapitation of a young woman propels Grebe’s exceptional solo debut, which examines three lives broken by failures to take responsibility in a Stockholm where “even the sky is crying.” Peter Lindgren, the detective investigating the crime, is afraid of commitment and still hasn’t accepted the teenage son he never wanted; shop assistant Emma Bohman, whose now-missing wealthy lover appears to be the prime suspect in the murder, dwells on her painful dysfunctional childhood; and profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schön, who’s trapped in a suffocating marriage, faces early-onset Alzheimer’s while helping the police with the case. The present-day crime resembles a 10-year-old cold case during which Peter and Hanne shared a short, tragic relationship. In alternating chapters, the three central figures regret what could have been, grieve for what’s been lost, and lament what seemingly can never be, until their bone-rattling self-revelations are redeemed at last by human love. Grebe has collaborated with her sister, Åsa Träff, on the crime series featuring psychologist Siri Bergman (More Bitter than Death, etc.). Agents: Astri Von Arbin Ahlander and Christine Edhäll, Ahlander Agency (Sweden). (Dec.)
From the Publisher
Advance praise for The Ice Beneath Her

“Exceptional.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Fans of Scandinavian crime fiction, and crime fiction generally, will enjoy the understated, angsty drama created by Grebe; librarians desperate for Girl on the Train read-alikes can also turn to this for readers who enjoy an antiheroine.”Booklist

“Impressive . . . a tour de force that lifts its author to the front rank among the increasingly crowded field of Nordic noir.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Ice Beneath Her deserves to be called a page-turner—I read it in one sitting! The narrative is fast-paced and the twists superb.”—Cecilia Ekbäck, bestselling author of Wolf Winter

“Slowly and subtly, Camilla Grebe lets The Ice Beneath Her unfold into a multilayered, psychologically nuanced murder mystery in which the truth, rather than drawing nearer, keeps slipping further and further away—until it strikes with full force.”—Arne Dahl, bestselling author of Misterioso

“Tense, gripping, and utterly unpredictable . . . Camilla Grebe is an extraordinarily gifted writer and a master of suspense.”—Kristina Ohlsson, bestselling author of Unwanted

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-09-20
Veteran co-author Grebe (More Bitter Than Death, with sa Trff, 2013, etc.) takes her first solo turn in this tale of three troubled souls linked by a horrific crimeand what a turn it is.The discovery of a womans corpse in a Stockholm house is doubly eye-opening, partly because the place belongs to clothing tycoon Jesper Orre, famous for his wealth, hard-nosed bargaining tactics, and uncertain temper, and partly because the corpses severed head was placed standing on the floor to stare at newcomers. The crime is so outr that the closest parallel homicide detective Manfred Olsson can come up with is a cold case he and his partner, Peter Lindgren, worked 10 years ago, the beheading of temp worker Miguel Caldern. In the absence of other leads, Manfred persuades Peter, a train wreck of a man whos particularly hard on women, to call once again on Hanne Lagerlind-Schn, the consulting psychologist who helped with that case. Manfred doesnt know that Peter and Hanne have had a fraught history since then; neither detective knows that Hanne is now struggling with early-onset dementia. As if these arent complications enough, Grebe cuts repeatedly away from the investigation to focus on Emma Bohman, a salesperson at one of Jespers Clothes&More locations whos swept off her feet by the bosshe meets her, takes her to bed, and proposes marriageand is then carried along into a nightmare when Jesper improbably borrows an enormous sum of money from her and disappears from her life, only to return, evidently, while shes out, steal a valuable painting, kill her cat, get her fired, and frame her for robbery. Each of these storiesPeters, Hannes, and Emmasis compelling enough to fuel an entire novel; Grebes skill in weaving them together is impressive. A tour de force that lifts its author to the front rank among the increasingly crowded field of Nordic noir.
Library Journal
07/01/2016
In this third novel in the authors' "Clandestine Operations" series, set during the Cold War, two WACs are kidnapped in 1946 Munich by four Soviet NKGB agents. Three of the agents soon end up dead, with the fourth badly bloodied; one of their victims, the charmingly named Claudette Colbert, works for the Directorate of Central Intelligence and knows her stuff when it comes to defense. Now, however, there are far-reaching consequences for the newly formed directorate.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425284322
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/27/2016
Edition description:
Translatio
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
100,743
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Peter

I’m standing in the snow by my mother’s headstone when I get the call. Her stone is simple, barely knee-high, in rough-hewn granite. We’ve been talking for a while—my mother and I—about how hard it is to be a police officer in this city, where nobody gives a damn about anything but themselves. And—perhaps more important—how hard it is to live in that kind of city, in this kind of time.

I stomp wet snow off my sneakers and turn away from her headstone. It doesn’t feel right to talk on the phone at her grave. The rolling hills of the Woodland Cemetery lay spread out before me. Mist hovers between the tops of tall pines, and beneath it the dark tree trunks shoot up out of the snow like exclamation marks, as if emphasizing life’s transience. There’s dripping from the treetops and from the gravestones. Meltwater runs over everything. It finds its way into my thin shoes, too, collecting around my toes like a wet reminder to buy those boots I have yet to allow myself. Somewhere in the distance I catch a glimpse of dark figures receding into the pine forest. Maybe they’re here to light votive candles or place pine boughs.

Christmas will be here soon.

I take a few steps toward the neatly plowed footpath and throw a glance at the phone screen, even though I already know who it is. The feeling is unmistakable. A sinking, pounding sensation that I know all too well.

Before I answer, I turn back one last time to her headstone. Wave awkwardly and mumble something about coming back soon. It’s unnecessary, of course—she knows I always come back.

The road stretches out black and shining as I drive into the city. The brake lights of other cars glisten in front of me on the road, lighting the way. Thick drifts of dirty brown snow and squat, depressing, conformist buildings line the road to Stockholm. The occasional illuminated Christmas star brightens up a window, like a torch in the night. It’s started snowing again. A rainy slush settles on the windshield, blurring all the edges, softening the landscape. The only sound is the rhythmic swish of the wipers married to the soft purr of the motor.

A murder.

Yet another murder.

Many years ago, back when I was still a rookie homicide detective, getting called to the scene of a murder always provoked a kind of exhilaration. Death was synonymous with a mystery that needed solving, like tangled yarn that needed unraveling. Back then I thought everything could be unraveled and explained. As long as you had the energy, the stamina, and knew which threads to pull and in what order. Reality was nothing more than a complex web of threads.

In short, it could be mastered, figured out.

Now I don’t know anymore. Maybe I’ve lost interest in the web itself, lost my intuition for which thread to pull. Over time, death has taken on new meaning. Mom, resting in the wet ground of the Woodland Cemetery. Annika, my sister, lying in the same cemetery not far away. And Dad, who’s bent on drinking himself to death on the Costa del Sol, will be here soon enough. The crimes that come my way no longer feel as important. Sure, I can help figure out what happened. Put the inconceivable into words—someone had their life taken from them—and describe the events that led up to it. Maybe find the culprit, too, and in the best-case scenario, help to prosecute him. But the dead are still dead, aren’t they? These days, I have difficulty finding meaning in what I do.

By the time I reach Roslagstull dusk is falling, and it occurs to me that it never really got light today. This day passed unnoticed through the same colorless December fog as yesterday and the day before. There’s more traffic once I merge onto the E18 highway heading north. I pass by roadwork, and potholes shake the car so the Little Tree hanging from the rearview mirror jumps alarmingly.

Manfred calls again when I’m driving past the university. Tells me it’s a goddamn mess, some kind of bigwig is involved, and it would be great if I stopped taking so goddamn long and showed up already. I peer out into the cement-gray dusk, tell him to hold his horses, the road has more holes than Swiss cheese, and I’ll bruise my balls if I drive any faster.

Manfred fires off his familiar, grunting laugh, like the snort of a pig. Or maybe I’m being unfair: Manfred is fat; maybe that colors my view of his laugh, makes me think of a voluptuous grunting. Maybe his laugh sounds just like mine.

Maybe we all sound the same.

We’ve been working together for more than ten years, Manfred and me. Year after year, we’ve stood side by side at the autopsy table, interrogating witnesses, and meeting distraught relatives. Year after year, we’ve taken on the bad guys and done our best to make the world a safer place. But have we, really? All those people slumbering in cold storage at Forensic Medicine in Solna are still dead and nothing will change that. Forever and ever. We are no more than society’s cleaning crew, tying up loose ends after the fabric frays and the unthinkable has already happened.

Janet says I’m depressed, but I don’t trust Janet. Besides, I don’t believe in depression. Because that’s how it is: I don’t believe in it. In my case, I’ve just realized the true state of our existence, and I’m looking soberly at life for the first time. Janet says that’s a textbook response, that the depressed person isn’t able to see beyond his own perceived misery. In return I tell her depression is one of the pharmaceutical industry’s most profitable inventions, and I don’t have the time or the desire to make obscenely rich pharmaceutical companies even richer. And if Janet wants to talk more about how I’m feeling after that, I always hang up. After all, we broke up more than fifteen years ago; there’s no need to discuss that kind of thing with her. That she happens to be the mother of my only child doesn’t change that fact.

Albin, by the way, is the child we never should have had. Not because there’s anything wrong with Albin—he’s a normal enough teenage boy: pimply, oversexed, and pathologically interested in computer games—but because I truly wasn’t ready to be a parent. In my darker moments (which are becoming more and more frequent over the years) I think she did it on purpose. Threw away her birth control pills and got pregnant as revenge for that thing with the wedding. Maybe that’s the case. I’ll never know, and it doesn’t really matter now. Albin very much exists, and lives in comfort with his mother. We see each other sometimes, not often—at Christmas and Midsummer and on his birthday. I think it’s best for him if we don’t have much contact. Otherwise, he’d probably end up disappointed with me too.

Sometimes I think I should carry a picture of him in my wallet, like the other (real) parents. A clumsy school picture taken against a sepia-toned panel in a gym by a photographer whose dreams have led no further than the Farsta High School. But then I realize that wouldn’t fool anyone, least of all myself. Parenthood is something you earn, I think. A right that comes from suffering sleepless nights, changing diapers, and all that other stuff you have to do. It has very little to do with genetics, the sperm I unknowingly donated fifteen years ago so Janet could fulfill her dream of being a mother.

I spot the house from a distance. Not because the white, boxy building stands out in any way in this exclusive suburb, but because it’s surrounded by police cars. Blue lights flash across the snow, and the unmistakable white van of the forensic technicians is parked neatly not far away. I park at the bottom of the hill and walk the last stretch up toward the house. Greet the uniforms, flash my badge, and slip under the blue-and-white barrier tape fluttering gently in the breeze.

Manfred Olsson is standing at the front door. His huge body obscures most of the doorway as he raises a hand in greeting. He’s wearing a tweed blazer with a bit of a pink silk scarf poking out of the breast pocket. His generous wool pants are tucked firmly into blue plastic shoe covers.

“Goddamn, Lindgren. I thought you’d never show up.”

I meet his eyes. His small, impish peppercorn eyes are set deeply in his ruddy face. His thin ginger hair is combed neatly in a style that calls to mind an actor in a fifties movie. He looks more like an antiques dealer or a historian or sommelier than a police officer. In fact the last thing he looks like is a cop—something he’s undoubtedly aware of. I suspect it might just be a ploy, that he actually loves exaggerating his eccentric style in order to provoke more hidebound cops.

“Like I said . . .”

“Yeah, yeah. Blame it on the traffic,” Manfred says. “I know how it is when you get hold of a good fucking porno. Hard to tear yourself away.”

Manfred’s rough language is in sharp contrast to his elaborate and conservative style of dress. He hands me a pair of shoe covers and gloves, and says in a quieter voice:

“Listen. This is some truly fucked-up shit . . . Come on, see for yourself.”

I put on the shoe covers and plastic gloves and step onto the transparent plastic plates that the technicians have placed seemingly at random in the hall. The smell of blood is so intense and nauseating that I almost retreat, even though I know it all too well. The pounding in my gut is growing stronger. Despite all the crime scenes I’ve been at, all the corpses I’ve seen, there’s something about being in the proximity of cold, naked death that still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Maybe it’s the reality of how fast it can happen. How quickly a life can be extinguished. But then again sometimes it’s the opposite—the way a crime scene, or a body, bears witness to unbearably protracted agony.

I nod to the forensic technicians in white coveralls and look around the hall. It’s noticeably anonymous, verging on austere. Or is it just very masculine? They’re almost the same thing when it comes to interior design. White walls, gray floor. No sign of the personal belongings you would normally find in an entrance hall: coats, bags, or shoes. I step onto the next plastic square and peek into a kitchen. Black-lacquered kitchen cabinets, high gloss. An elliptical table with chairs around it that I recognize from some home decor magazine. Knives on parade along the wall. I note that none seem to be missing.

Manfred puts his hand on my arm.

“Here. This way.”

I continue down the hall on the plastic steps. Pass by a forensic technician equipped with a camera and notepad. A large bloodstain spreads out under the plastic. No, it’s no bloodstain, it’s a sea. A red, sticky sea of fresh blood that seems to cover this entire section of the hall, from wall to wall and farther down the stairs to the basement. From this sea there are tons of footprints in different sizes that lead toward the front door.

“A hell of a lot of blood,” Manfred mumbles, and steps forward with surprising agility, even though the plastic steps buckle under his weight. A numbered sign stands next to a bloody bundle of clothing. I catch a glimpse of a leg and a high-heeled black boot, and then the lower body of a woman. She’s lying on her back with her head turned away from me. It takes a few seconds for me to realize she’s been beheaded and that what I first mistook for a bundle of clothing is in fact a head lying on the floor. Or rather, it stands there, as if it grew from the floor.

Like a mushroom.

Manfred groans and sinks down on his haunches. I lean forward, taking in the macabre scene. Letting it in—that’s important. The natural reaction is to shrink back, look away from this terror, but as a homicide detective I have long since learned to suppress that reflex.

The woman’s face and brown hair are clotted with blood. If I had to guess, which is a little difficult given the condition of the body, I’d say she’s around twenty-five. Her body is also soaked with blood, and I glimpse what look like deep wounds on the forearms. She’s wearing a black skirt, black tights, and a gray sweater. Beneath her, soaked in blood, I glimpse a winter coat.

“Fucking hell.”

Manfred nods and strokes his stubble. “She’s been beheaded.”

I nod. There’s nothing to add to that statement. It’s obvious that’s exactly what happened. It requires a considerable strength, or at least laborious effort, to separate a head from its body. It says something about the perp. Exactly what I don’t know yet, but it was certainly no cripple who did this. The killer was reasonably strong. Or very motivated.

“Do we know who she is?”

Manfred shakes his head. “No. But we know who lives here.”

“And who’s that?”

“Jesper Orre.”

The name sounds familiar, in the way of a retired athlete or former politician. It rings a bell, but I can’t remember where I’ve heard it before.

“Jesper Orre?”

“Yes, Jesper Orre. The CEO of Clothes&More.”

Then I remember. The controversial CEO of C&M, Scandinavia’s fastest-growing clothing chain. The man the media loves to hate. For his management practices, for his many love affairs, and for his frequent politically incorrect statements to the media.

Manfred sighs deeply and stands up. I follow his lead. “The murder weapon?” I ask.

He points silently down the hall. At the far end, next to a staircase that seems to lead down to a basement, lies a large knife, or maybe a machete. I can’t see it clearly. Beside it stands a small sign neatly placed with the number 5 on it.

“And Jesper Orre, have we got ahold of him?”

“No. No one seems to know where he is.”

“What else do we know?”

“The body was found by a passing neighbor who noticed the front door was open. We talked to her. She’s at the hospital now; apparently she’s having heart problems from the shock. Anyway, she hasn’t seen anything else of note. Unfortunately, she stomped around quite a bit in the hall, so we’ll see if the technicians can lift any useful footprints. There’s blood in the snow outside too. Presumably the perp tried to dry off after the murder.”

I look around. The floor next to the front door is covered with a jumble of red tracks. Along the walls there are blood splatters and bloody handprints. The scene resembles a Jackson Pollock painting: It looks like someone poured red paint onto the floor, rolled around in it, and then splashed paint all over everything else as well.

Meet the Author

Camilla Grebe was born in 1968 in Alvsjo, Sweden. With her sister Åsa Träff, she has written five celebrated crime novels, two of which were nominated for Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year. Grebe is also the co-author of the popular Moscow Noir trilogy. The Ice Beneath Her is Camilla Grebe’s solo American debut.

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The Ice Beneath Her: A Novel 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
CLynnT 15 days ago
Whew! Just got back to the States from a quick trip to Stockholm Sweden. I had the uncanny ability to peek into the personal lives of 3 very different people and witness (from a safe distance) their meandering paths that soon cross. That’s what it feels like after finishing this read. Emma really got my attention. She’s the embodiment of an unstable, mentally sick product from a loveless and angry childhood. I clearly understand why she ticks the way she does, thanks to the author’s quick glimpses into Emma’s memories. Emma was enjoying the perfect relationship with a rich and powerful man, until the fateful night he abandoned her, never showing for their engagement meal. He wouldn’t answer her calls, avoided her at his office, turned off his phone and even moved from the apartment where they had shared so many memorable moments. He stole her money and her valuable painting then turned her pet cat out into the cold night, never to be seen again. Emma is spurned. Emma is hurt. Emma wants vengeance. And you’re pulling for her to get it. He’s got it coming. Meanwhile, Peter is a detective on a team assigned to solve a gruesome murder. Hanne is a psychologist hired to assist in understanding the murderer. The clues are eerily similar to a 10-year old unsolved crime. Both of these people have issues, nothing nearly as bad as poor Emma, but a history and longing for one another. These 3 unique personalities (unique being mild in Emma’s case) are quickly heading towards each other. Who does what? How do all the clues fall into place? Will I maintain my shared anger with Emma for being spurned; my frustration with Peter for being an absent father; my sympathy for Hanne as she struggles with a controlling husband and the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s? If you want a quick escape from your own issues and don’t mind having to stay up late to keep reading, this book is for you. A great read on these cold, rainy and dreary winter days / nights with a blanket and a comfy chair. (I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thank you to Ballentine and NetGalley for making it available.)
CathyGeha 22 days ago
I have to say that though the writing was good and the story told from three first person points of view I did not really like any of the people doing the narrating. The story was one of a crazy person killing people but for some reason I found it highly unbelievable that such a person could be out and about doing what was done over a period of time without anybody realizing they were not right in the head. I did not really have empathy for any of the characters except for the victims. I am not sure if I was expecting something different or if in fact this is a style of book that is just one that does not appeal to me. I did not find it to be frightening or suspenseful or chilling…it was more a character study with many unhappy people at the center of the story with very little for any of them to look forward to. That said, I am sure there are readers who love this type of book and they will be thrilled to read it. Thank you to NetGalley and Bonnier Publishing for the copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.