Hello, friends! I thought I would start a monthly author spotlight series for you, fellow bookworms.
First, I thought I would only do a yearly Nordic Noir feature in November, but now I’m thinking a monthly feature is feasible. Yearly seems too far apart, am I right?
I’m really hoping that I can stick to my plans, but we shall see.
For my first author spotlight, I want to start with an underrated author from my favorite genre, Nordic Noir. I know spring is here, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s always a good time to talk about Nordic Noir. I know a couple of my Bookstagram friends will totally agree with me.
Without further ado, let me introduce you to Stefan Ahnhem.
An established Swedish screenwriter that lives in Copenhagen, Stefan Ahnhem is way too underrated as far as I’m concerned. He worked in film and TV, from adaptations to original ideas, thrillers, and comedies. He is behind the popular Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series.
His Fabian Risk series is simply brilliant, Nordic Noir at its best.
The first book in the installment, Victim Without a Face, I stumbled upon by fluke. One sunny weekday afternoon a few years ago I was browsing through the sale section at my local Indigo bookstore, and this book was calling my name. Needless to say, I absolutely loved it.
Victim Without a Face
Let me give you a small synopsis of the book.
Fabian Risk, the Criminal investigator from Stockholm, leaves his job in the big city to start anew in his hometown of Helsingborg. Before starting his new position at the Homicide Department, he and his wife planned a six-week vacation with the kids to settle in and enjoy some family time.
But his plans are ruined a few hours into their new life.
The body of Jorgen Palsson, a former classmate, is found brutally murdered with both hands missing. He is called in to bring his new team his expertise, and soon more bodies of fellow classmates are found.
Needless to say, his vacation plans go up in the air, and his wife is not impressed. But he jumps right into work mode, trying to stop this killer before more bodies turn up.
This is one of my comfort reads, a book that is the first in a series that deserves a lot more credit. From the very first few pages, I fell in love with Ahnhem’s writing style. With short chapters and a storyline that gets you from the very beginning, I couldn’t help but find my new favorite series.
Ahnhem is so clever in the way he plays with the reader’s mind that you don’t really know what to expect. The main character, Fabian Risk, is a very complex, imperfect, and human investigator, and his personal life is a mess.
Risk and his wife are having issues, and his two teenage kids are not very happy about the move. Especially his son, who is slowly pulling away from the family unit.
While he’s trying to deal with all his issues, the bodies keep piling up. And the way the victims are murdered is particularly gruesome. But the way Ahnhem uses vivid descriptions makes you want to find out more as if you’re part of the team that is investigating these crimes.
Without giving too much away, I’m just going to touch on the main problem on the basis of the book. Bullying, with an undeterred focus on revenge, has been eating away at the killer since childhood.
Ahnhem develops the planning that went in the killer’s mind with ease. The action is fluent throughout the book. He draws a good picture of how long the person of interest was plotting the crimes, and how meticulous this killer really is.
With many twists and turns, the book takes you by surprise in a good way. Although it’s quite a brick, it’s hard to put down once you start it.
The Ninth Grave
The second book by Ahnhem is The NInth Grave, followed by Eighteen Below, Motive X, and X Ways to Die. And this summer, the final installment in the series will come out, The Final Nail.
This book can be read as a stand-alone, but if you like to follow the character’s personal issues, then this gives you more details into their lives.
In The Ninth Grave, the events actually take place six months before his first book in the series. I’m not going to lie, you might get confused for a bit in the beginning, but it all makes sense as you keep reading. If you actually want to start the series with this one, it’s a clever idea. For my re-read, that’s the order I’m planning on reading the series.
The book starts off with a letter that was written over a year beforehand, but the recipient just receives it. More letters are introduced as the story unfolds, and the author also gives a bit more background into Fabian Risk’s family life. That actually explains a lot of what was going on in the first book.
This book is about two killers that are committing crimes against people across two countries, in the dead of winter.
On the coldest day of the year, Sweden’s minister of justice disappears.
In Denmark, on the same cold night, the wife of a TV celebrity is attacked in her own home.
There are clues from the beginning that the two cases are linked, and Risk is paired up with Danish investigator Dunja Hougaard to solve these crimes. As they are delving into the world of these criminal minds, they realize what a dangerous conspiracy they stumbled upon.
An unputdownable thriller that has so many twists, you better brace yourself.
I usually read multiple books at once, but with this series, I strongly suggest you devote your complete attention solely to those books. Otherwise, you might feel a bit lost, but trust me, it all unfolds beautifully at the end.
Ahnhem is nothing short of a genius at complex plots, and although some of the descriptions are gruesome, they are bearable and necessary to the development of the story.
If you’re faint of heart this style is probably not for you, but for us thriller addicts, this is a great book.
The third book in the series is Eighteen Below. Two years after the events of Victim Without a Face, a seeming car accident turns into a homicide investigation. When the autopsy of the body is performed, it becomes clear that the body of one of Sweden’s most affluent IT entrepreneurs was frozen for two months before being placed behind the wheel of the car.
Across the strait, Dunja is back in uniform and starts her own investigation once a homeless man is beaten to death.
Once again, the two investigators cross paths, but are the two events related?
Fabian Risk is more settled in his job and new house. Since quite a long period of time passed since his previous investigation, things seemed to settle down. He used that quiet time to get his family life back on track, but they still have issues to work on. There are multiple storylines in each character’s lives, which makes the reader get very involved with the series. Every single one of them is making questionable decisions and making mistake after mistake.
I just love the way Ahnhem humanizes every character and gives them room to make mistakes. But will one of their mistakes be too grave to solve, or will that get them closer together?
Brilliantly written once again, the book keeps you on your toes from beginning to end. Hands down, his books seem to get better and better.
The fourth book, Motive X, starts with Rick’s daughter in a coma, following his previous investigation gone wrong. Guilt-ridden, Fabian doesn’t want to leave her side, but he is called in to lead another investigation.
In Sweden, a young Syrian refugee has been murdered in what seems to be a racist attack.
In Denmark, more people die, and Police Chief Astrid Tuvesson has to leave her AA program to deal with complex investigations.
Are those murders related, and can Fabian and Astrid join forces and solve those murders?
In typical Ahnehm style, the book is very complex and requires the reader’s full attention. Intense, this one shows you a dark side of Swedish society we all seem to idolize. But Ahnhem showed us some of the issues still relevant in today’s society: racism, pedophilia, and far-right extremist groups.
Another cliffhanger, the author has a way of leaving you wanting for more.
X Ways To Die
I haven’t yet read the fifth book by Ahnhem, but the fourth in the series. It follows the events from Motive X, but my copy is actually in Romania, and I honestly forgot to get an English version of it here. Needless to say, I have to get my hands on a copy one way or the other before the last book comes out later this year.
But for now, I will just summarize what this book is about since I can’t give you my opinion yet.
In Ahnhem’s typical fashion, this thriller is packed with murderous games in which the killer makes the rules.
Fabian Risk gets another case that baffles him in which victims are burned, dismembered, tortured, for no apparent motive and with no consistency. That’s what makes things so much harder for him and his team to catch this killer.
Fabian’s personal life is still a mess, his kids are not well, and a colleague has secrets he wants to keep buried.
How will Fabian succeed in playing this killing game he’s part of and come out a winner?
I don’t know about you, but I have to get to this book sooner rather than later.
Looking forward to the fifth and last installment in this series that is coming up later this year.
I highly recommend the series to those who love serial killer thrillers, and perfect for Nordic Noir fans. Filled with action and lots of surprises, the series will keep you on your toes all the way through. I will not stress this enough: if you’re faint of heart, please abstain from embarking on this series. But if not, you really don’t know what you’re missing. By far, he is one of my favorite Nordic Noir authors.
I hope you enjoyed my author spotlight, and I will continue to introduce you to more authors that I love. Some you might know, some may be new to you. Let me know in the comments what you think, your comments are always welcomed.
Until next time, enjoy reading!