Following the sudden death of his wife, Dan is living in solitude on the Swedish island of Blidö when he is called upon to rescue a young woman in a snowstorm. Reluctant to befriend the brash and impetuous Lena, a relationship of sorts somehow develops between them. Dan feels drawn to her, and compelled to protect her when he learns of her difficult childhood. But when Lena’s body is later found battered and bloody, suspicion falls first on a family of Iraqi migrants, and then on Dan himself. What is the Iraqi family’s story? Why are they hiding on Blidö, and what part have they played in Lena’s troubled past?
Unusually for a crime novel, the story ends with Lena’s death and instead of a retrospective hunt for a killer, we are treated to a literary treasure trail in the countdown to her murder. The reader is invited to identify the key players and although strong suggestion is made, there is no firm closure at the end of this brittle and bleak page-turner.
Beautifully built, and artfully written this is one of the best books I have read all year. It is both simple in its storytelling and exquisitely complex in the construction of characters and their motives. It raises questions about social isolation, loneliness and dysfunctional relationships in the Swedish culture. I am reluctant to use the word ‘haunting’ as it is something of a cliché, but this story has really stayed with me since finishing it. I purposely left a few days before writing this review because my mind needed time to mull over all the gentle hints and suggestions that were intricately woven into the story. Only now am I starting to recognise the importance of seemingly benign actions and comments.
This novel asks more questions than it answers; not least of which is the title: who exactly is acting in the name of love? I highly recommend buying two copies of this book and gifting one to a friend, if only so that you have someone to discuss it with! The perfect A-level text, or book group title, you will be left thinking about this one for a long time afterwards.