cover image The Viper

The Viper

Häkan Östlundh, trans. from the Swedish by Per Carlsson. Minotaur, $24.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-64232-7

Östlundh’s U.S. debut, an engrossing thriller, upholds the fine Scandinavian literary tradition of using crime to peek into deep-rooted social malaises. When a cleaning lady discovers a gruesome double murder in an isolated farmhouse on the Swedish island of Gotland, the police assume that the disfigured male body next to Kristina Traneus, who’s been hacked to death, belongs to Kristina’s husband, Arvid. A few days earlier, Arvid returned home permanently from a decade spent working in Japan, where he made a fortune and left behind a lover. The eventual realization that the body is not Arvid’s prompts a manhunt that unearths long-buried family secrets about accidental and other untimely deaths without casting any light on the perpetrator of the crimes. Along the way, as various minor characters flit across the stage, the author delivers a thoughtful meditation on the nature of evil and what makes a person culpable. Agent: Lena Stjernström, Grand Agency. (Aug.)