Fresh Meat: Black Lies, Red Blood by Kjell Eriksson

Black Lies, Red Blood by Kjell Eriksson is the fifth Swedish procedural featuring Detective Ann Lindell, whose romantic life comes crashing down after her lover becomes a suspect in a homeless man's murder (available April 29, 2014).

When Detective Ann Lindell meets Anders Brant, she thinks there’s a chance for a passionate personal life. In a whirlwind few weeks, she’s started to fall for the mysterious reporter.  However, when Anders’ phone number turns up in a murdered man’s pocket, Lindell discovers she doesn’t know enough about Anders.

There are plenty of reasonable explanations for a reporter’s phone number to be with the dead man, Bosse Gransberg: Anders could know Bosse personally. Bosse could have been a lead for one of Anders’ articles. Unfortunately for Lindell, any opportunity to clear Anders’ name is ruined.

Because Anders has disappeared.

Black Lies, Red Blood is the fifth installment in Kjell Eriksson’s Ann Lindell mystery series. While Ann Lindell is the titular character, Eriksson gives her colleagues and new characters plenty of space in the investigation. Uncomfortable recusing herself entirely from the Gransberg case, Lindell chooses to allow her team to lead the investigation—and possibly find and arrest her new lover—while she works point on a missing person case.

For Lindell, pulling away from the investigation is very clearly a good idea from the beginning of the novel. In just a few short weeks, she’s had a heated affair with Anders Brant—and Eriksson doesn’t shy away from up-front and personal descriptions:

Smart or not, he was the all-around best lover she had encountered. He made her feel beautiful and desirable. He saw lines in her body like no one before. I’m over forty, she protested, but he just smiled, and caressed her across her back and down over the rounding of her rear. “Dead man’s curve,” he said, letting his hand continue toward her womb and she had lightheartedly parted her legs, but his hand made its way across her thigh toward the hollow of her knee.

When Anders disappears without a word of good-bye, or even an email, Lindell is worried. Then, when she discovers Anders has taken off for Portugal she’s confused, then angry. She throws herself into the investigation for the missing Klara Lovisa, a sixteen year old girl who, like Lindell, might not have known the man she was seeing very well.

Black Lies, Red Blood has two concurrent mysteries to be solved. While Lindell focuses on the missing person’s case—which is looking more and more like foul play—her team searches for the killer of Bosse Gransberg, a homeless man who was not all he appeared to be. Detective Ola Haver arrives first on the scene. His first reaction to the dead man is one of half-pity, half-disgust at the way he assumes Bosse lived his life:

The place was just as miserable as the dead man’s life must have been. An unnecessary place–cold, windy, hard–without beauty or the slightest finesse. The plants that had worked their way up out of the coarse gravel radiated chlorophyll-deficient impoverishment and misery. It was a place of exile, a Guantanamo for plants.

Ola Haver even thought the workers who laid the foundations–reinforced, poured, and graveled–forgot they had ever been there. There was no pride over the surroundings.

As Lindell, Haver, and the team pry further into Bosse’s life, a different picture emerges. Bosse has two women who loved him deeply. He was trying to start up a construction company. He’d been dry for months. Almost as quickly as theories can be dreamt up, they’re shot down. The key seems to be Lindell’s secret lover. And Anders Brant is just running farther and farther away, jumping a whole continent:

For a few seconds he stood there irresolutely, took a few steps, stopped again, turned around, looked, took a few steps, a ridiculous dance of self-betrayal, when deep inside he knew that there was no way back.

Brant put up his hand and hailed a motorcycle taxi. He got a helmet from the driver and experienced a liberating sense of anonymity as he put it on. He straddled the motorcycle and was seized by the impulse to lean his head against the driver’s back, which was decorated with the name Kaka and the number eight.

What begins as a hunt for a homeless man’s killer becomes an international manhunt, with Lindell’s lover in the middle.

Throughout the story, Eriksson throws twists and turns at the investigating team and the reader. Using multiple viewpoints, he reveals the inner workings of police, suspects, and victims—then pits those characters against one another. And he does so with two plot lines: the death of Bosse Gransberg, which takes center stage most of the time, and the disappearance of Klara Lovisa, whom Lindell doubts is still alive.

Even though Black Lies, Red Blood is the fifth novel in the series, author Kjell Eriksson has created an ensemble that’s easy to get behind. The relationships between the characters have been honed and polished throughout the series, so the reader is never confused about where anyone stands regarding the investigations or their fellow officers. The novel comes to life because of the ensemble that’s created—between both the recurring police characters and the newly created victims and suspects.

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Jenny Maloney is a reader and writer in Colorado. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in 42 Magazine, Shimmer, Skive, and others. She blogs about writing at Notes from Under Ground. If you like to talk books, reading, publishing, movies, or writing, feel free to follow her on Twitter: @JennyEMaloney.