Skåne has obviously become a good location for crime fiction, because in Linda Ståhl’s debut The Sinner Shall Awaken, Höllviken and the surrounding area is at the centre of events. Also in this book, the crime plot revolves around a posh neighbourhood where a reliable housewife suddenly goes missing without a trace. Her husband, a renowned estate agent, becomes worried in a matter of hours. Yvonne who is always around to cook him dinner in the evening! Reub Thelander, the new detective chief inspector at the small police precinct in Vellinge, is tasked with the investigation and here Linda Ståhl launches something surprising. Reub identifies as non-binary, neither a he nor a she, so to speak. It is a little alarming to me who is old and sceptical towards everything new and primarily towards idea-driven detective novels: will The Sinner Shall Awaken be characterised by gender identity politics and lose sight of the crime plot itself? After a few chapters, I notice to my surprise that Reub is just Reub, a competent detective. And I actually don’t give a toss about the gender definition, much like Reub’s colleagues once they are past the initial confusion. And that is something new in itself: that a non-binary leading character in a crime novel is not included purely because of their gender identity, which quickly becomes irrelevant. Instead, Linda Ståhl allows the thrilling plot to quickly develop and more details complicate the image of the affluent couple. At the same time a parallel story unfolds, introducing Alex Carsén, a successful but extremely secretive author in Stockholm.
There appears to be several interesting Swedish crime debutants right now, and Linda Ståhl is one of them /… / Ståhl masterfully inserts clues and red herrings into her narrative, which places Höllviken on the crime map. The book is the first part in a series located here and one may suspect that Reub will be more than just a temporary visitor. They have also become fond of someone with kind eyes and an attractive mop of hair. This is a character gallery and a place that you will want to revisit.
Linda Ståhl’s debut novel, The Sinner Shall Awaken, could not be more timely. Domestic violence and the murders of several women have finally received attention from the media and the politicians /… / She also includes another group that have been a target of harassment and discrimination by using a non-binary character in her plot /… / Besides the ground-breaking addition of a non-binary person to the character gallery, Ståhl is also really good at building tension and presenting surprise after surprise. She slowly unveils her characters one layer at a time, until they are completely exposed, the “good” guys as well as the “bad” guys.
This is a readable and well-written crime novel that really pulls me in after only a few pages /… / Yvonne, the wife of successful estate agent Harald Tengbom, is reported missing. I expect her to be found murdered a few pages later and that the read will involve a manhunt. But instead, I realise the plot is more thrilling than that. It turns out that Yvonne is not the wife Harald had believed and she appears to have lived a secret life. Neither her daughter, her husband nor her friends seemed to have known the true Yvonne. Nonetheless, she needs to be found and it is really intriguing to lay the pieces of the puzzle. Those who bring this book to the beach this summer won’t even notice if the sun is covered by clouds.
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