Some paperback novels work best when read at speed, to pass the time on an otherwise tedious journey when there is nothing more satisfying than immersing oneself completely in a delicious murder story.
“Dark pines” is that kind of book and it features a reporter, Tuva Moodyson, on a small-time local paper in a Swedish backwater.
There is no template for crimebusters who finger the bad guys. Maybe it was the dishevelled detective Columbo who first bucked convention with his starring role in the eponymous TV series that started back in 1971.
Since then there has been no shortage of true detectives possessing signature characteristics and personality traits that defy classification. A new, post-Perry Mason bar has been set with the summer blockbuster “Skyscraper” and its swashbuckling hero who happens to be an amputee.
What makes Tuva Moodyson different is her deafness but she manages with a hearing aid and a determination to escape small-town life by solving the mystery of a murder victim found with his eyes missing.
“Dark pines” is a compelling read, a Nordic thriller with style. Creepy at times, with oddball characters, Will Dean’s debut novel breathes fresh life into overworked Scandi noir.
“Sweet fruit, sour land” is altogether different, a dystopian story on a slow-fuse, narrated by two women who have become close friends in the face of severe adversity. There has been a complete breakdown of normal life, catastrophic population loss and food shortages on a global scale occasioned by ecological and economic meltdown.
Few specific details are given of the ecological disaster but a sense of what happened is convincingly portrayed and the post-apocalyptic emergence of a totalitarian government is all too believable.
You’ll be reminded of “The handmaid’s tale” but the plot is not derivative.
Mathilde and Jaminder are the two narrators and the story of how they met in London and fled to Scotland with a child unfolds in a series of flashbacks. It takes a while for the reader to figure out what happened in the past and fast reading will be counterproductive.
This is a book about personal grief and ways of coping with a profound sense of loss as it is a nightmare story about an Orwellian future.
What makes “Sweet fruit, sour land” a slow read is its meditation on loss and the role of memory in surviving but also reliving past events of great sorrow.
Mathilde came to London with her grandmother after escaping from the violence unleashed in France. Jaminder had moved to London from Kenya before the catastrophe that brought civic life to a standstill. They are both in great danger.
Surviving as best they can, they only have each other, a resolve to care for their child and memories of a mixed kind about the past.
“Dark pines”by Will Dean is published by Point Blank. “Sweet fruit, sour land” by Rebecca Ley is published by Sandstone Press.