Book Review: In the Month of the Midnight Sun, by Cecilia Ekback

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cv_in_the_month_of_the_midnight_sunIn the Month of the Midnight Sun, in some ways, follows on from Cecilia’s previous book Wolf Winter. It features the same location, the mountain Blackasen, but is set some 150 years later in a different season. The story has three narrators: Magnus, whose father-in-law has sent him on a delicate mission, his sister-in-law Lovisa who is sent along to get her out of town and Ester, a woman from a nomadic group of Sami people, who has recently lost her husband.

Cecilia Ekback creates a gloomy, restless environment. The reader knows that something bad has happened, and probably will shortly happen. The bleak landscape of Lapland provides an oppressive background to the story. Magnus has been sent to survey Blackasen mountain – and at the same time investigate a murder that has taken place. His father in law, a government Minister has sent him on this mission and at the last minute required that he take along his sister-in-law, Lovisa. Magnus is in no position to refuse the inconvenient request.

At the same time, Ester is adjusting to the loss of her husband. There are hints that she is perhaps glad that he is dead, but now uncertain of her place. Her tribe are moving on to another location and Ester is left behind to determine the spot that they will return to next summer.

Lovisa’s accounts were the most fascinating to me. She is a complex character, and she and her father are at odds. Lovisa often gets close to an analysis of an event or character – and then it is interrupted by her habit of stealing items.

I found the multiple narratives initially challenging, as the different characters are so focused on different aspects of the events that it is hard to know in a sense how reliably they are documenting the events. However, there is an overarching narrative theme of ‘mapping’ – and the real life mapping quest is mirrored in different ways by each character. You get a sense of everyone in the story being driven to Blackasen village with a strong sense of inevitability.

There are many complexities to this story, and it requires a focused read. It is though rewarding, and I have been left pondering the story and characters for some time.

Reviewed by Emma Rutherford

In the Month of the Midnight Sun
by Cecilia Ekback
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
9781444789942

Book Review: The Son, by Jo Nesbø

Available in bookstores nationwide. 

I was disappointed. Because after resurrecting the cv_the_son_jo_nesbowonderful, gritty Harry Hole in his last book (Police), Nesbø drops him again in favour of what appears to be a stand-alone novel that dives feet first into the religious allegory that’s often provided the architecture for his work – especially in novels like The Redeemer. It’s not quite Dan Brown, but the symbolism is laid on with the proverbial trowel – a bit thick for the armchair sleuth, perhaps. Perhaps.

So the story goes that Sonny Lofthus, is a con with “healing hands,” someone prepared to selflessly absolve the sins of his fellow prisoners. But he’s also a hopeless junkie. He was a boy with potential, a medal winning wrestler. A model student. A proud son. But then his police officer father commits suicide. It was assumed that dad was at the heart of police corruption because after his death things clean up down at the Nick. A confessional note appears. It’s a fait accompli. Sonny hits the drugs and plunges in a web of evil. He’s encouraged to confess to murders he hadn’t committed in exchange for heroin by the corrupt prison staff, who are in cahoots with the local mafia.

Then a fellow prisoner reveals a secret that sets Sonny on a new path as an avenging angel of lethal retribution. Unraveling all of this is an ageing inspector and his young, over-ambitious protégé, who become obsessed with the case. The story spirals and spirals, intertwining into a tight-rope of a plot.

With a quick cadence, this is the perfect commuter novel. Short, punchy chapters that kept me interested and satiated through every train journey as I burrowed into the story, ignoring the conductor at my peril. It’s not a deep read. Everyone appears at surface level with only a few layers to peel back when the core plot demands it.

Still, this is the kind of book to make you feel it was well worth the time. It was disappointing that Nesbø chose to re-shelve Harry, but Sonny could be a potential replacement – albeit on the reverse side of the cards.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

The Son
Written by Jo Nesbø
Published by Harvill Secker (distributor Harper Collins)
ISBN 9781846557408