Review by Tabitha Potts
I’m a sucker for crime stories set in wintry landscapes, and have snowplowed my way through so many Scandi noir crime tales that I sometimes fear I will run out of new ones to read. I was delighted, therefore, to discover Will Dean’s Dark Pines, which featured a quirky, stubborn, journalist protagonist named Tuva Moodyson, based in the small Swedish town of Gavrik, who doesn’t let her hearing impairment get in the way of solving crimes.
The sequel, Red Snow, features many of the characters we came to know in the first of the series, Tuva’s best friend, Thai chef Tammy Yamnim, David Holmqvist, the loner ghostwriter who likes to cook elaborate offal dishes and Lena, Tuva’s long-suffering boss at the local paper she writes for. But Tuva herself is facing changes. She’s had a job offer in the city of Malmö and she’s leaving in two weeks.
The story opens with Tuva helping an old man whose car broke down in a blizzard and giving him a lift to the town’s liquorice factory where he works as a caretaker. She arrives in time to witness the suicide of the factory’s owner, Gustav Grimberg, who jumps off a factory chimney. But was it really a suicide?
David Holmqvist commissions Tuva to help him research a book on the Grimberg family, with the help of the three surviving Grimbergs, elderly eccentric Cici, stressed widow Anna- Britta and goth teenager Karin. When the body of a worker is found in the factory, with two liquorice coins over his eyes, everyone starts suspecting there’s a killer in town, who is nicknamed ‘The Ferryman’ by the press.
Tuva’s investigations are complicated by the short amount of time she has left in the city and her growing crush on the gorgeous new police officer, Noora. She traces possible drug connections to the murdered man and discovers a local lawyer, Hellbom, has an interest in the factory.
More potential suspects for the Ferryman murders are revealed when a fire burns down part of the factory and after that, fragile Cici is pushed down the factory stairs. Tuva follows up every lead in this tensely plotted mystery, but when the denoument arrives it is unsuspected and devastating. Tuva has to fight for her life in order to reveal the true identity of the Ferryman. Will she succeed?
This novel continues the fantastic characterisation and atmospheric descriptions of Dark Pines with some even more gothic flourishes: Karin’s ‘cabinet of life’ filled with collected poisons and murder weapons springs to mind, or the ice skulls that the residents of Garvik create and use as decorations in the town.
One can only hope that the departure of Tuva Moodyson for big city life is a red herring because one of the great pleasures of this series is the setting in a remote Swedish town. It’s a highly enjoyable and chilling read that is best enjoyed sitting by the fire with the curtains drawn firmly against the darkness outside.