Still Waters by Viveca Sten

I usually look for historical fiction when I visit a new place. But during a recent sailing trip among the spectacular Swedish skerries, the only novel I found with a local setting in the bookshop of the picturesque island of Sandhamn was a contemporary murder mystery. It took me only a few days to devour it.

Detective Inspector Thomas Andreasson has become a bit of a workaholic with not much of a social life after his baby daughter died and his marriage fell apart. But when a corpse is washed up on the island adjacent to where he has his holiday cottage, he has to postpone his summer holiday and start investigating. In the next few weeks he will make countless two-hour ferry trips from Stockholm to Sandhamn and back, which give him the chance to catch up on his young godson Simon Linde, whose mother Nora has been a good friend since his youth.

With the help of the pretty Chief Inspector’s daughter Carina, Thomas identifies the victim and contacts his only known relative, a cousin who has just returned from several months on the Greek island of Kos. To everyone’s horror, this woman is soon found gruesomely murdered on Sandhamn. Both cousins had been living rather miserable lives and neither a connection between their deaths nor a possible motive is evident.

Soon another body is found by Nora floating in an idyllic bay and the plot thickens. Disagreement between Nora and her husband over a potential new job and a growing attraction for Thomas on Carina’s part introduce well-developed interpersonal relationships. The suggestion of a black market of stolen alcohol leads the police to suspect a rich landowner on the island. But the final dramatic denouement takes us all by surprise.

This book is a captivating read with rich characters and a flowing style, without the need to revert to explicit sex and violence. It’s not surprising that Viveca Sten has made this the first of many successful Sandhamn Murder mysteries.

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