Archive for July 11, 2011

FROZEN MOMENT: CAMILLA CEDER

Posted: July 11, 2011 in review, Sweden

Ake Melkersson is having trouble with his car. He seeks help along a lonely country road outside Gothenburg where he has a vague memory there is a garage near one of the farms. When he gets there he finds a body. The victim has been shot in the head and then run over by a large vehicle, his lower body has been completely crushed. Ake goes back to the crossroads and phones his young neighbour Seja Lundberg to accompany him to the murder site because he is so rattled and upset.

Seja is a trainee journalist and intrigued by the murder she claims to have been with Ake when he discovered the body. 

The victim is garage mechanic, and part time photographer, Lars Waltz, who is the second husband of the owner, Lise-Lott Edell. The crime is investigated by Inspector Christian Tell, and his team of detectives. Tell immediately spots that Seja has lied about discovering the body, but he unwisely becomes involved with this attractive woman. 

A separate back story beginning 13 years earlier in 1993 follows the life of Maya Granith, a young girl with a very disturbed mother, Solveig, and a younger brother Sebastian. Maya leaves home and goes to study at Stensjo Folk High School, where she becomes involved with Caroline, the caretaker. When Maya returns home to rebuild her relationship with her mother, it leads to tragedy. 

When a second brutal murder occurs using the same method, Tell is baffled as to what the connection is between the two victims.

Frozen Moment is Camilla Ceder’s debut novel, and has been translated by  Marlaine Delargy who also translates Johan Theorin and Asa Larsson’s novels. I read the first 100 pages and although I was enjoying it switched to reading Devil’s Peak on my Kindle [while we were away] and came back to it later. Perhaps this was a mistake on my part and why I found Frozen Moment to be a curate’s egg of a novel. I enjoyed the 2006 story and all the details about the detectives, Christian Tell, the older grumpy Bengt Barneflod, Karin Beckman, and her marital problems, Andreas Karlberg, and the “young prince” Michael Gonzales. There is a lot of compelling detail in the book including social commentary about the struggles of families in the countryside with farms and small businesses, the story of Seja’s rejection by her former boyfriend, and tales of teenage rebellion and angst. Are there too many side stories about peripheral characters? Not when they contain brilliant comments about Swedish society.

It wouldn’t have been difficult to get some woman from town to paint herself a romantic picture of a country kitchen and a herb garden, working herself up until she would have married the devil himself. But to get hold of a woman who would roll up her sleeves and throw herself into her work without going on about equality and self-fulfilment, that was tricky.

Unfortunately I thought the 1990s back story held up the narrative, and I found it a bit dense and turgid. Are there now too many back stories in crime fiction? 

I did not really warm to Christian Tell, who seemed very self centered in that he did not know anything about his long time boss Ann-Christine Ostergren, and like many fictional male detectives has serious relationship problems. The front cover blurb states Move over Wallander but I hope that in future books Camilla Ceder writes more about the team in the style of  Sjowall/Wahloo rather than too much wallowing in Henning Mankell type introspection. Frozen Moment has the potential to develop into a good series, and hopefully the very uptight Tell will eventually thaw out.

Tell bit his tongue in order to avoid saying what he really thought, namely that Beckman’s job wasn’t to act as some kind of therapist, but to ask the questions that could help them find the murderer as quickly as possible.