Dark Pines by Will Dean
An isolated Swedish town. A deaf reporter terrified of nature. A dense spruce forest overdue for harvest. A pair of eyeless hunters found murdered in the woods.
It’s week one of the Swedish elk hunt and the sound of gunfire is everywhere. When Tuva Moodyson investigates the story that could make her career she stumbles on a web of secrets that knit Gavrik town together. Are the latest murders connected to the Medusa killings twenty years ago? Is someone following her? Why take the eyes? Tuva must face her demons and venture deep into the woods to stop the killer and write the story. And then get the hell out of Gavrik.
Something I‘ve come to love in books is when a murder investigation takes place through the eyes of a journalist because the main protagonist, in this case, Tuva, isn’t bound by police protocol but instead has the freedom of a journalist and that leaves the plot wide open.
Tuva is a wonderful character, who I liked instantly; she’s tasked with reporting on the latest murders to hit the small town of Gavrik, not only does this mean venturing into the woods, which, understandably, she finds terrifying, but she also has to deal with the hostility from the local folk who believe her story will give the town a bad name. But Tuva is concerned with the truth, and she’ll be damned if she isn’t going to find it! I applaud Dean for, what felt to me like, an accurate and insightful portrayal of a character who is deaf; prior to reading this novel, I had no idea, for example, about the static that could interfere with hearing aids.
Dark Pines is set in a small-town and conveys that small town atmosphere very well, in the sense of everyone knowing everyone. And what an odd set of residents this town has, from the weird taxi driver to the woodcarving sisters, just about anyone could be responsible for these murders.
I did enjoy this novel, but I’m slightly torn about my overall opinion of it – there’s no denying it has all the right ingredients to make a fantastic read: small-town, dark woods, creepy characters, cold climate, murder mystery, but something was just missing in this one for me. It just didn’t carry that moody atmosphere I crave in Nordic Noir, that beauty wrapped in darkness, it’s hard to explain but it feels like I read this book at surface level, and was never really able to immerse myself fully in the novel the way I would have liked and is usually a given when I read Nordic Noir. While I recognise all that’s good about this book, I just struggled to connect with it in the way I would have liked.
*My thanks to the publisher (Oneworld Publications) for allowing me access to a digital copy of this title via Netgalley*
The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh
Imagine a place populated by criminals – people plucked from their lives, with their memories altered, who’ve been granted new identities and a second chance. Welcome to The Blinds, a dusty town in rural Texas populated by misfits who don’t know if they’ve perpetrated a crime or just witnessed one. All they do know is that they opted into the programme and that if they try to leave, they will end up dead.
For eight years, Sheriff Calvin Cooper has kept an uneasy peace – but after a suicide and a murder in quick succession, the town’s residents revolt. Cooper has his own secrets to protect, so when his new deputy starts digging, he needs to keep one step ahead of her – and the mysterious outsiders who threaten to tear the whole place down. The more he learns, the more the hard truth is revealed: The Blinds is no sleepy hideaway, it’s simmering with violence and deception, heartbreak and betrayal, and it’s fit to burst.
As soon as I read the synopsis for The Blinds, I thought what a fantastic concept – I loved the idea of these people having their minds altered and living together in a community, because I keep thinking of the possibilities that could occur if one of them remembered who they used to be.
I found the beginning of this novel gripping, learning about this little town in the middle of nowhere, formally known as Caesura but often referred to as The Blinds, a fitting name, if ever there was one. Sheriff Cooper has been here since the beginning and has done his best to keep the peace, we also learn a bit about the original eight – the first eight residents of Caesura. One of whom is Fran Adams, I found Fran instantly likeable, and whatever was coming to this community, I hoped she’d survive it.
There was a brilliant twist in this novel very early on that had me expecting an enthralling read throughout, but I must admit, I felt the middle portion of this novel was a bit slow compared to the rest of it, not in a ‘change-of-pace’ way but in the limited amounted of action that took place. However, it was all relevant to the plot and set up a fantastic ending.
I also like that this novel starts on Monday and concludes on Friday, telling this story over a period of five days allows you to watch events play out in almost real-time, and Sternberg didn’t incorporate too much as to make the read feel crammed. I don’t read many novels that could be categorised as Westerns, and I’ve learned from this novel, what a great atmosphere these novels contain, in the sweltering heat, the simmering tension, and somebody give Cooper a cowboy hat already, so many moments to ‘tip one’s hat’.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel, the beginning and ending were fantastic, despite feeling a little let down by the middle portion, I’d still recommend it. I will ask you this though, have you ever read a book, and thought how great it would be on the screen? This was the case for The Blinds, I enjoyed the book but I think this story would work even better if it was viewed instead of read; so, I’m extremely happy it’s been optioned for television by Original Film and Sony TV.
The Blinds publishes in paperback on 1 Feb 2018 but is available on Kindle now.