Viveca Sten – In the Heat of the Moment

 

Back cover:

« It’s Midsummer’s Eve, the celebration of the longest day of the year, and on Sandhamn it’s the longest party of the year. But the fun comes to a dead halt when a young reveler is murdered, a teenage girl is found drugged and dazed on the beach, and other young women vanish. So far, what links the victims is a mystery. For Nora Linde and her new boyfriend, Jonas Sköld, the crimes are personal: one of the missing girls is Wilma, Jonas’s daughter. And her disappearance could test Nora and Jonas’s relationship in ways they never expected.

Thrust into the investigation, they soon discover that it’s more than a case of bad blood between friends. But the truth, which has receded into a haze of carousing, drugs, and liquor, is getting harder to see. If Nora and Jonas are going to find out what happened to Wilma, they’d better do it fast—before the ebbing tides sweep away all the terrible secrets of that night on Sandhamn Island. »

The book in two words:

  • Lightweight: This is a great summer book. Easy to read. No need to think. A good page-turner that makes you want to take the next boat to the Swedish archipelago and lie down on the beach. Just make sure to keep an eye open… After all, the person sitting next to you might be a killer…
  • Predictable: The plot is too easy to find out… No plot twist at the end.

Express review (without spoilers):

“I stundens hetta”, the original title of the book, was first published in 2012. It is part of a series of books depicting the adventures of the detective Thomas Andreasson and the lawyer Nora Linde on Sandhamn Island. Viveca Sten has written four other books prior to this one: “I de lugnaste vatten”, 2008 (Still Waters); “I den innersta kretsen”, 2009 (Closed Circles); “I grunden utan skuld”, 2010 (Guiltless); “I natt är du död”, 2011 (Tonight You’re Dead). Don’t worry; if you did not read these books it will not constitute an issue to understand the story of In the Heat of the Moment.

I thought the characters lacked some depth, even though you are following their private life next to the investigation. Unfortunately, an important part of the story was centered on the protagonists’ personal life, turning the middle of the book into a long, arduous and boring reading session. When I am reading a thriller, I want the book to be suspenseful, focused on the investigation. I need to be kept on the edge of my seat! It was not the case here. Granted, some aspects of the characters’ private life were connected to the investigation, but these were revealed far too late in the story. Plus, the investigation per se profoundly lacked gritty details and thorough researches. Sten solely focused on interrogations, notably with the friends of the victim. To add to my point on the lack of details, the police picked an easy theory to resolve the case – even though it was crystal clear that someone else had murdered the victim.

Structurally speaking, the chapters were short, making the story too fast-paced. Sten opted for a third person narration style; each chapter following a different character. This narrative choice was less than effective, giving too many points of views – hence making it too easy for the reader to discover the truth (halfway through the book if you are a smart cookie).

In a nutshell: a good summer read to bring with you on the beach and if you want to discover the archipelago of Stockholm! But, not the best Swedish thriller at all! If you are looking for a rare gem, I would instead recommend you to discover Mons Kallentoft or, of course, Stieg Larsson!

 

Quote (sorry I read it in French):

Quand elle eut contourné Harö, Sandhamn apparut et Nora mit le cap sur les maisons en bois jaunes et rouges à l’entrée du chenal. La haute tour des remorqueurs s’élevait au-dessus des cimes des pins. […] Son canot n’avait pas de feux de position, mais c’était inutile. Le ciel était clair, les nuages de la journée avaient disparu et, dans son dos, le soleil couchant formait une grosse boule orange. Sur un coup de tête, elle ralentit l’allure et laissa le bateau dériver.”

Follow me on Instagram for daily book pictures and debates on literature! @booksonblackcat 

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