(Sandhamn Island, Sweden)
Viveca Sten continues her Sandhamn murder series with her second installment CLOSED CIRCLES in which she continues her “softer” approach to the Swedish noir. Unlike other authors, Sten chooses to mostly leave out the blood and gore and presents violent acts in a much more acceptable fashion, though the story does begin with a murder. The victim Oscar Juliander, a womanizer and corrupt lawyer is shot as he stood by the boat’s steering column, the “Emerald Gin,” as he jockeyed for position at the Round Gotland Race. Juliander was the first vice chairman of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club (RSYC) and a successful bankruptcy lawyer. He was killed when the starting gun went off to begin the race which coincided with the bullet that resulted in his death.
Sten interestingly constructs her plot through a number of characters that appeared in STILL WATERS the most important of which are Detective Inspector Thomas Andreasson; Nora Linde, a lawyer and old friend of Andreasson; Carina Persson, an administrative assistant on the police force who was in a relationship with Andreasson; and Detective Inspector Margit Grankvist, Andreasson’s partner. Sten introduces a series of new characters aside from Juliander which reflect the social status and lifestyles of RSYC members. They include Ingmar von Hahne, the yacht club secretary; Hans Rosensjoo, Chairman of the RSYC; and Martin Nyren, head of facilities for the RSYC among numerous others.
From the outset the dominant question revolves around who killed Oscar Juliander. There are a number of interesting theories. First, though married he had over thirteen mistresses over the years who he had made certain promises to. Second, he was scheduled to replace Rosensjoo as Chairman of the RSYC, perhaps someone was jealous or had other plans. Third, Juliander lived his life well beyond his financial means, i.e., how did he afford his lavish sailboat, leading to the supposition that the Russian mob may have been involved. Fourth, Juliander was fond of drugs. Fifth, he was in possession of a crooked credit card linked to an offshore bank account that was difficult to penetrate, and lastly someone might have been focused on killing members of the RSYC’s board of directors.
For about two-thirds of the novel the plot line zeroes in on the investigation of Juliander’s death until a second killing takes place. As you continue to read you expect some sort of defining moment, but Sten continues and strings you along. To facilitate the story line Sten delves into the private life of Andreasson and Linde’s private lives in much more detail than in STILL WATERS. For Andreasson his involvement with Carina Persson, fourteen years younger and the daughter of the Chief of Police puts him in a quandary, how to break it off and not anger anyone. In Linde’s case her marital difficulties with her physician husband Henrik continues from the prequel as she inherits an old mansion that she wants to maintain, and her husband does not. The marriage had difficulties before this new issue, and it is a focal point in the story as she turns to Andreasson for advice and he in turn looks to her for professional assistance in dealing with banking regulations to help solve the murders.
Juliander’s vehicle for his wealth was a foreign credit card set up through a secret bank account. The way banking regulations were set up, particularly in Liechtenstein it was difficult to obtain banking records. Sten spends time explaining how these regulations impeded criminal investigations especially in certain countries. It seemed the only way to penetrate this vehicle of corruption was if the issue revolved around terrorism or drugs. In Juliander’s case it appeared that the protective wall was just about money laundering or other forms of accumulating wealth.
As the novel progresses Sten integrates the fears and angst of a number of characters, among them is Diana Soder who fears for her life because of a number of threatening e-mails. Further the wives of RSYC board members have their own agendas as do a number of other somewhat shady characters. Sten’s work flies by as you read as the translation from Swedish by Laura A. Wideburg is well done. I enjoyed CLOSED CIRCLES and I hope to continue reading the series, with GUILTLESS, next up.
(Sandhamn Island, Sweden)