Swedish novelist Mari Jungsted has chosen a deceptively tranquil setting for her tale of murder: a remote and picturesque island called Faro, which hosts an annual festival celebrating the work of film director Ingmar Bergman, and a nearby nature reserve famous for its unique flora and birdlife.
But in thrillers, isolation, steep coastal cliffs and wild seas are a recipe for tragedy.
Drawn to this location is a group of Swedish friends who live next to each other in the same neighbourhood and are so close that they holiday together every year.
We are introduced to them in a somewhat piecemeal style early in the book, learning that tightly wound perfectionist Andrea Dahlberg is eager for time away with her busy film-maker husband Sam, while Stina Ek (wife of the much older Hakan) is about to make some sort of fundamental change in her life from which there is no going back. The third couple, Johan and Beata, are drawn in less detail, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own baggage.
It feels like this tightknit group of friends, most aged around their early 40s, are too close; that there is some sort of dark secret or threat underlying the pleasant veneer. This feeling can be partly attributed to the opening chapter, which sees two unnamed individuals engaged in an explicit encounter in a dark forest, and is enhanced when we discover a strange man is covertly observing one of the group members on Faro.
Then someone goes missing, and a series of calamities sees the quiet islands turned into a crime scene.
This is Jungstedt’s seventh novel featuring Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas and journalist Johan Berg, although The Double Silence focuses more on Knutas’s offsider, Inspector Karin Jacobsson, who is also preoccupied with her own personal quest.
Did someone follow the friends to the island, or was the threat among them all the time? That is the puzzle she must solve.
The island setting gives an atmospheric backdrop to the unfolding mystery, while the author’s talent for characterisation lends credibility to the narrative. Jungstedt rarely resorts to graphic violence or shock tactics to captivate her readers, instead maintaining pace through a steadily building air of tension and the gradual unveiling of secrets and lies.
As the publisher’s note says: “closest friends don’t share everything…”
The Double Silence is an excellent example of Nordic noir that will send you scampering to the bookshop to seek out more Mari Jungstedt novels.
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