On a rainy April day, a body—or what is left of it—is found by a young girl. Wrapped in a blanket with no hands, feet, or head, it signals the work of a brutal, methodical killer. The victim, Leopold Verhaven, was a track star before he was convicted for killing two of his ex-lovers. He consistently proclaimed his innocence, however, and was killed on the day of his return to society. This latest murder is more than a little perplexing and Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is determined to discover the truth, even if it means taking the law into his own hands.
The island of Gotland is in the middle of a busy tourist season and getting ready for Midsummer, the 4th of July of Swedish holidays, when a young woman and her dog are found brutally murdered. The dog has been beheaded and is missing a paw; the woman is naked, covered in gruesome axe wounds, and her panties have been stuffed in her mouth.
What looks like a crime committed by the victim's jealous husband keeps the local police force on their toes. Then a second victim is found. A serial killer terrorizes tourists and locals alike, and Inspector Anders Knutas has to face additional pressure from the media and local politicians who are worried about bad PR for the island.
In his quest for the murderer, he is aided by Johan Berg, an intrepid young journalist from Stockholm who has been sent to cover the incidents and who gets involved with Emma, one of the first victim's close friends. Three women die before Knutas and Berg, each approaching the case in their own way, finally close in on the killer, who has always, until now, been the one unseen by everybody.
Jungstedt has written an atmospheric and exciting first mystery in clear, unadorned prose, in the tradition of Henning Mankell, Håkan Nesser, and Karin Fossum.
“It’s fascinating to watch this Norwegian author adapt our homegrown monster [the serial killer] to a foreign culture.... When things go wrong, Harry goes on a bender, but when he’s on his game, no one is better than this obsessive detective. He systematically works his way through the intricacies of a plot that speeds along like a bullet train.”—New York Times Book Review
In the heat of a sweltering Oslo summer, a young woman is found murdered in her flat—with one of her fingers cut off and a tiny red star-shaped diamond placed under her eyelid. An off-the-rails alcoholic barely holding on to his job, Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with Tom Waaler, a hated colleague whom Harry believes is responsible for the murder of his partner. When another woman is reported missing five days later, and her severed finger turns up adorned with a red star-shaped diamond ring, Harry fears a serial killer is at work.
But Hole's determination to capture a fiend and to expose Waaler's crimes is leading him into shadowy places where both investigations merge in unexpected ways, forcing him to make difficult decisions about a future he may not live to see.
The swift conviction left Van Veeteren uneasy: Janek Mitter woke one morning with a brutal hangover and his wife dead in the bathtub. With only the flimsiest defense, he is found guilty and imprisoned in a mental institution. But when Mitter is murdered in his bed, Van Veeteren regrets not following his gut and launches an investigation into the two murders. As the chief inspector delves deeper, the twisted root of these violent murders will shock even him.