The Cheltenham Literature Festival – 5th to 14th October 2018
Dark thriller set deep in a Swedish forest
8th January 2018
Dark Pines by Will Dean, dark thriller set deep in a Swedish forest.
Dark Pines, already hotly tipped to be one of the books of 2018, is a very exciting, and very dark, thriller. Scandi Noir at its very best… and, perhaps surprisingly, written by a British author now living in Sweden. Will Dean is a great new talent.
Gavrik is an isolated town on the edge of the 600 square kilometre Utgard Forest. Its local newspaper, Gavrik Posten, has a deaf reporter – Tuva Moodyson. She is sent out to cover the story of a body found with gunshot wounds in the Forest. Nothing especially odd about that – Gavrik is a hunting community and accidents happen. But this body had its eyes gouged out… and not by an elk. The crime is reminiscent of the Medusa murders in the same area twenty years earlier – when three hunters had been killed in the same way… shot though the torso and their eyes removed. Has the killer returned, or is a copy cat at work? Further murders take place amidst an increasingly febrile atmosphere in the town.
Tuva is determined to capture the story that could make her career. But to do so she has to overcome both the hostility of some of Gavrik’s inhabitants – who fear the publicity could adversely impact their livelihoods – and her own fears and inhibitions. She ventures deep into the forest along a track with a scattering of houses. She interviews the inhabitants. And they are a pretty strange collection. She can imagine anyone of them committing both the current murders, and the Medusa crimes. From the ghost writer (who had, in fact, been interviewed by the police in connection with the original murders – and then changed his name), to the strange and somewhat scary taxi driver and his son, to the two sisters who spent their lives carving trolls, to the head of the local hunting association, and his wife, who live at the end of the track. A motley bunch, indeed. The book moves to an exciting, and somewhat frightening, conclusion – deep in the forest. Tuva confronts her fears and survives (just).
Dark Pines is extraordinarily well written. Utgard Forest itself is a powerful and brooding character – full of dark corners and surprises (and super sized mosquitos!). Tuva’s deafness is very sensitively handled. Her daily battles with hearing aid batteries, and those who doubt her ability to do her job, are objectively reported. There are several sub plots that give texture to the overall story – from Tuva’s relationship with her ailing mother in a home in nearby Karlstad, to her friendship (latently sexual, or not) with Tammy – a Thai lady making a living selling fast food from a caravan in Gavrik, to the goings on at strip club / brothel on the outskirts of town close to a mill that used to be a major local employer.
Dark Pines is the first in a series by Will Dean featuring Tuva Moodyson. I look forward very much to the second offering.
Tony for the TripFiction team
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