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Historic murder mystery set in North Sweden

14th March 2024

Deep Harbour by Tove Alsterdal, historic murder mystery set in North Sweden.

Translated by Alice Menzies.

Historic murder mystery set in North Sweden

In the present day a diving party exploring wrecks in the estuary of a river in Northern Sweden makes a gruesome discovery. A body is revealed under the silt. The police do not think the person was lost when a ship went down – there is evidence that the body was weighed down with an anchor. A murder investigation is launched. Pregnant Eira Sjödin is put in charge, but doesn’t really know where to start. The first question is how old is the male body, when did it go into the river. The clues are minimal. There is no match with dental records and Eira surmises he was not from the area, possibly not even from Sweden.

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Her painstaking research takes us back to the 1960s. It was a very different time. Sweden was one of the few safe havens for American deserters from the Vietnam War. Many settled in the area and lived a somewhat hippy lifestyle – working on a casual basis in the local docks. It was also a time of ferment in industrial relations. Many workers were suspected of being communists, taking their orders from Moscow. Many were blacklisted across Sweden. Eira needed to find out more about these times. She turned to her mother and some of the elder members of the community. Her mother is suffering from dementia and her memory is far from robust. She does, though, remember an affair she had with one of the American deserters. It was rumoured that the deserters were not left alone by the US authorities. There were many reports of CIA infiltration and involvement. Three of the Americans (including her mother’s lover) were close friends. Eira tracks down one of them running a small record shop in Gothenburg. He fills in some of the blanks…

Gradually all becomes clear and worryingly close to home for Eira. Divisions open with her mother and some of the mother’s friends. The results of Eira’s investigations do not please everybody.

A gripping book.

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