Review: Midwinter Blood by Mons Kallentoft


Title: Midwinter Blood {Malin Fors #1}

Author: Mons Kallentoft

Published: Atria Books June 2012

Synopsis: Meet Malin Fors. Be careful, though, she’s addictive. Thirty-four years old, blond, single, divorced with a teenaged daughter, Fors is the most driven superintendent who has ever worked at the police force in her small, isolated town. And the most talented. In her job, she is constantly moving through the borderland between life and death. Her path in life is violent and hazardous. It is the coldest February in recent memory. In the early hours of a particularly frigid night, the body of an obese man is found hanging from lone oak tree in the middle of a withered, windswept plain. Malin Fors is called to the scene. Together with her colleagues of the Violent Crime Squad at Linköping Police Department, they must find out who the man in the tree is, and how he got there. Their manhunt in the frigid wake of a ruthless killer brings Malin Fors to the brink, and into some of the darkest corners of the human heart.

Status: Read from June 04 to 06, 2012 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

I have to admit I slogged my way through three quarters of this book and considered abandoning it several times. I didn’t for several reasons, one being that this was a Netgalley request, the second because two reviewers I respect gave it a 4 star rating and thirdly because I admired several elements of the novel.
Midwinter Blood is a part crime/part police procedural in the style of what has been labeled ‘Scandinavian Crime’, not only for the author’s origin and the setting but also distinguished by the cold weather, gruesome murder and reserved literary tone(think Stieg Larsson, Camilla Läckberg, Jo Nesbø). It begins in the depths of winter in a small Swedish town where an obese man is found hanging from a tree in the middle of a paddock, badly beaten, cut and half frozen. Inspector Malin Fors and her colleagues of the Violent Crime Squad at Linköping Police Department are tasked with discovering the man’s identity, and the identity of the killer. The crime scene suggests that the man could have been a sacrifice in the reenactment of an ancient Viking rite but as the victim’s life is unraveled the detectives discover a shocking family secret.

“An investigation consists of a mass of voices, the sort you can hear, and the sort you can’t.”

It may be that the translation is partly at fault but it was the abrupt shifting between voices, sometimes within a paragraph, that I found the most distracting. The author uses multiple viewpoints to narrate Midwinter Blood, the dead victim speaks of observing the police clustering at his swinging feet, a third person narrative provides glimpses into the lives of Malin’s colleagues but it is primarily Malin’s first person voice that tells the story.
Inspector Malin Fors is a single mother of a teenage daughter who has a complicated relationship with her ex-husband, her parents, and a tendency to drink too much. She is a dogged investigator, not afraid to push the boundaries and determined to find the answers she needs to solve the crimes she is assigned. The characters of Midwinter Blood, from Malin to the truly disturbing Murvall family are fascinating and I admired the way in which Kallentoft crafted such complex persona’s. Even the victim is well developed, and though I disliked the corpses philosophical musings, I appreciated that the author honoured the man with a depth of characterisation rarely afforded to the victim.
The investigation itself was interesting as the detectives followed up leads, evidence and hunches but he pace of the story was a source of frustration for me. I imagine a real police investigation would have a similar rate of progress but the glacially slow beginning simply made me impatient and it barely improved for me until the last few chapters. How much the fact that Midwinter Blood is written in the present tense had to do with that, I’m not sure.

Judging by other reviews of this title if you have a fondness for Scandinavian crime then my review of Midwinter Blood you should not let my review put you off. However for me, while there were individual elements of Midwinter Blood I admired, the novel failed to coalesce into a satisfying read.

Available To Purchase

@Amazon I @Book Depository

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Pocketful of Books (@PocketfulofBook)
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 03:20:14

    I am really loving this cover but it sounds as though the contents of the book doesn’t live up to it. Great review- I think I’m gonna skip this one x



  2. BarkLessWagMore
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 03:30:57

    Great review. Even though the world at large loves the Stieg Larsson books I found them difficult to get through for the reasons you mention here. My husband loved them though so maybe I’ll have him check this one out.



    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Jun 12, 2012 @ 09:53:49

      I haven’t attempted the Steig Larson books yet though they are on my shelf. Your hubby may well enjoy this though given the comparisons



  3. bernadetteinoz
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 19:18:55

    I do like my Scandi crime but I must admit I didn’t make it through the first book in this series. I do plan to give it another go because I started it when I was super busy and distracted and am not sure I was being entirely fair…but I’m not surprised to hear that this one was a slog for you as that was my feel with what I read of the first one. I think there are probably better Scandinavian crime writers…have you tried the other Larsson….Asa (who is a woman)? I’ve liked all her books but the last one….UNTIL THY WRATH BE PAST…was a treat



    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Jun 12, 2012 @ 09:49:07

      I haven’t as yet Bernadette though its on my TBR list, I’m glad I am not the only one who found this a bit of a struggle though!



  4. parrish lantern
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 19:41:22

    Not a great fan of this lit, although this appears to be my problem as loads love them.



  5. Sarah
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 23:13:07

    I liked this book a lot Shelleyrae but I can understand why the narrative voices section could put you off. You are not alone. I have just finished the second book which I also enjoyed but it is structured along similar lines to the first book so I suspect you wouldn’t enjoy it. Nice to get some alternative views on scandi crime.



    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Jun 12, 2012 @ 09:52:15

      I know Sarah – your review is why I persevered LOL! I have read a little bit of Scandi crime – namely Henning Mankell and wasn’t impressed with that either. It may just be the genre is not for me 🙂



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