Blaze Me a Sun
Finally, the American debut of one of Sweden’s best Criminologists and Crime novelists.
Christoffer holds a Ph.D. in Criminology at University of Stockholm and was awarded the International European Society of Criminology’s Young Criminologist Award. His previous critically acclaimed novels have won numerous literary awards and this novel was met with many accolades in Sweden in 2021. He masterfully uses his training and skills to create this cerebral page-turner and welcome addition to the canons of crime fiction, which may eclipse the notoriety of Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankiell.
His well-honed tale is told in multiple timelines and the narrative eye of four main protagonists. The story unspools in the viewpoint of policeman, Sven Jorgensson, his son, Vidar, his partner, Evy Carlen, and lastly the “novelist.” A burgeoning serial killer commits his first brutal rape and murder in the small town of Tiarp on the eve of the assassination of Sweden’s prime minister. Sven is first on the scene and finds 20-year-old Stina Franzen, barely breathing in the back seat of her vehicle. He valiantly tries to rush her to the hospital, but she breathes her last on the futile trip. To add insult to injury he is later legally accused of hastening her demise by mishandling her body.
On this fateful night in February of 1986, the killer taunts the local police with a phone call announcing his killing and proclaiming: “I’m going to do it again.” Sven becomes obsessed with the case as no clues or links to the killer are uncovered. One evening at home, Sven receives a phone call: “I did it again… and you’ll never find her body.” Frida Ostmark indeed is missing—no leads or linkage to the first victim arise. And, yet again, this small community is rocked when twenty-three-year-old Gisela is raped and brutalized in her own home. She is haunted by his muttering: “Lie still now, Dolly.” She miraculously survives the attack when the perpetrator is interrupted by the early return of her boyfriend. Robert Mellberg’s body was found three days later in a green van with his head bashed in and a baseball bat slathered with gray matter and swatches of hair. Sven is obsessed and haunted by the unsolved murder’s of the Tiarp Man ( the nom de plume bestowed by the newspapers). This affliction is shouldered to a lesser extent by his partner, Evy, and to a lesser extent by his son, Vidar. ( Who eventually and briefly assumes the mantle of police officer.).
Decades later, the “novelist’ returns to his childhood home of Tiarp, after his failed marriage.
He has not written in a long time, suffering from a “writer’s block.” He’s surprised how so very little has changed in thirty years. He meets and befriends Evy, who has long since retired. They exchange phone numbers and soon frequently chat over tea or wine. She is soon spinning tales of police work that are both hilarious and tragic, as well as stories about her husband, Ronnie and her brother, Einar. The novelist recalls idolizing Sven when he was a child and in fact was a classmate of Vidar. Evy also confides what happened to Sven and his son, because of the Tiarp murders. The novelist becomes enthralled with this cold case and starts to “pull at the threads” of details to better understand and possibly truly solve this cold case. He uncovers many disturbing occurrences and shame, as well as secrets buried for years.
Carlsson proves to be a masterful storyteller spinning a complex and convoluted tale, presented in intense and concise prose, and in multiple timelines and viewpoints. He explores the themes of truth, justice and moral suffering and the lengths that one will pursue to exact closure. Carlsson opines early in his narrative: “ Moral suffering is strange. It can strike the strong as easily as the weak, and no surgery, painkillers …. can help.” …. “ you can let yourself be consumed or resort to drastic measures to free yourself.”`. This gem is a multilayered and nuanced police procedural that rises to the level of literary fiction. Hopefully we will have further translations of his highly acclaimed fiction.
Thanks to NetGallery and Random House Publishing / Hogarth for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.