The Inner Circle opens with an international group of young archeology students sweating on a dig on the island of Gotland, uncovering a Viking fortification dating back over a millennium. They are a fun-loving lot, partying together every night, but the good vibe turns to horror when one of them, twenty-one-year-old Martina Flochten, disappears. Her body is found a short while later, naked, bled out, and hanging from a tree. Her injuries indicate that she is the victim of a ritual killing.
Inspector Anders Knutas investigates Martina's acquaintances. Who was the mysterious lover she was supposed to have been meeting in secret and whom none of her fellow archaeologists have actually seen? What do the marks on Martina's body signify? Is there possibly a connection between Martina's death and the recent and unsolved brutal beheading of a Gotland pony? The pony was also bled out, and its head was missing---until it appears mounted on a stick outside the next victim's house.
Inspector Knutas and his team work feverishly to catch the killer, but before long there are more victims, all of whom have been killed and mutilated the same way.
Mari Jungstedt integrates a healthy dose of Scandinavian mythology in this installment of her critically acclaimed series, and also addresses current issues on Gotland, while keeping up a fast-paced and intricate plot as Knutas closes in on the killer and the secret that connects the victims. This is Swedish crime fiction at its best: dark, atmospheric, and character-driven.
In summer the Baltic island of Gotland, Beowulf's old stomping ground, offers stunning scenery for tourists and white nights for love and lust, all of which shape the backdrop of Det. Supt. Anders Knutas's investigation into one horrifying crime after another in Swedish author Jungstedt's absorbing third police procedural (after 2007's Unspoken). The decapitation of a harmless pony is followed by the "threefold" Viking ritual murder of a female archeology student, who's been carrying on a torrid affair with a secret lover, then two more grisly executions, all punctuated by chilling glimpses into a psychopathic mind. The fluid translation evokes the stark economy of the ancient sagas, where all that mattered was how one fought and died. A little of that old warrior spirit still inhabits Jungstedt's tired, frustrated Swedish policemen and journalists, facing monsters within and without and, like Beowulf, never giving in.
The Dangerous Game
Although this book began slowly by 30 pages into it, I found the characters to be quite intriguing which is one of my main requirements for a crime story. Detective Anders Knutas was a likable and believable main character with a life beyond his work (not the mythic liner that too many such characters are).
I also enjoyed the setting, a small vacation island off the coast of Sweden in winter time (a beautiful and lonely place for a brutal attempted murder that occurs in the first few chapters)