End of Summer by Anders de la Motte: classiest Scandi thrillers you will read this year - book review -

When four-year-old Billy Nilsson disappeared from his home and was never seen again, it tore apart his distraught family.

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 3:45 pm
End of Summer
End of Summer

When four-year-old Billy Nilsson disappeared from his home and was never seen again, it tore apart his distraught family.

Nearly two decades later, Billy’s older sister Vera has restyled herself as Veronica Lindh and is working as a grief counsellor when a young man walks into her therapy group and reawakens the trauma of that late summer night when her teenage world turned upside down.

If you thought a Swedish summer brought only bright sunshine, beautiful countryside and rural charms, then you haven’t yet entered the spine-tingling world created by a former police officer who has magically morphed into a master storyteller.

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End of Summer is rural Scandi-noir at its best and the latest book in Anders de la Motte’s stunning Seasons Quartet, which includes the three standalone novels Rites of Spring, Deeds of Autumn and Dead of Winter, all number one bestsellers in Sweden, and all currently being published by Zaffre.

These enthralling books – flawlessly translated by Marlaine Delargy – have earned their author a shortlisting for the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award for Best Crime Novel of the Year, and this atmospheric, summer-themed mystery weaves between past and present as disturbing family secrets come back to haunt a tight-knit agricultural community.

On a late summer’s evening in the rural town if Reftinge, which sits on the edge of the wide open Skåne Plain, young Billy Nilsson is chasing a baby rabbit in the fields behind his house. But when his mother Magdalena goes to call him in, Billy has disappeared.

In charge of the desperate hunt for the missing boy is Reftinge’s comparatively new police chief, Krister Månsson, the ‘outsider’ who had initially considered the town a place that didn’t demand much from its police boss until everyone started to look to him to end the Nilsson family’s nightmare.

Billy was never found and nearly twenty years later, his older sister Vera, now known as Veronica, is a bereavement counsellor but on a ‘second chance’ with her job after a mysterious incident that led to a restraining order, panic attacks, increased anxiety and being placed under the watchful eye of a senior supervisor.

Despite the passage of years, Veronica, who freely admits she is addicted to other people’s pain and grief stories, has never fully come to terms with the suicide of her mother who filled her pockets with stones and walked out on to a fragile, ice-covered lake after Billy’s disappearance.

When a young man called Isak Sjölin walks into Veronica’s counselling group, he looks familiar and starts talking about the trauma of his friend’s disappearance in 1983. Could Billy still be alive after all this time?

Needing to discover the truth and for the first time in fifteen years, Veronica goes home to Reftinge to see her widowed father and the place where her life started to fall apart. But is she really prepared for the answers that wait for her there?

End of Summer is one of the classiest Scandi thrillers you will read this year… a mesmerising amalgam of menace, suspense, festering secrets, and a Scandinavian rural landscape where massive changes are underway, old enmities live on, loyalties are being tested, and the impending summer rains pose a constant threat.

De la Motte’s addictive mystery unfolds through the narratives of troubled Veronica, the hard-pressed police chief whose emotive task was to find Billy, and an intriguing series of unsigned love letters which grow increasingly sinister.

Shocking revelations and breathtaking twists and turns tumble from every page as we learn about disturbing events and hidden truths in the past which are slowly coming to fruition, while clues, suspects and false trails keep the reader guessing right through to the final showdown.

As always with De la Motte, the sense of time and place are exquisitely wrought, the cast of vibrant, superbly drawn characters play their parts to perfection, and the acute psychological observations add emotional ballast to a thrilling and labyrinthine plot.

A top-notch addition to what is proving to be a treat for every season!

(Zaffre, paperback, £8.99)