Swedish Author Tove Alsterdal has written a riveting mystery novel, “We Know You Remember,” that is a worthy addition to the series of novels by terrific Swedish authors that have captured the attention and praise of mystery lovers all over the world. The plot structure of this memorable work is brilliantly conceived and executed, and the development of an array of fascinating characters is impressive. As a matter of fact, the novel is as much a profound psychological study as it is a clever police procedural.
The first character we meet is Olof. He’s on his way to his place of birth, and he will see his father for the first time in many years. But he won’t talk to him because Olof finds his father lying in the bathtub, brutally murdered. And so the plot begins to unfold. The murder is thoroughly investigated by the local police, including the novel’s protagonist, Detective Eira Sjödin. The investigation will become a near-obsessive, haunting, plodding, confusing struggle for her.
At first, the reader might wonder, as I did, why detectives like Eira and her colleagues would be so consumed by one murder, the murder of an old, crabby hermit who has rarely even spoken to anyone for years. But we soon learn why solving this particular crime is such a significant challenge. Many of the small town’s residents are forced to dredge up sad and tragically violent memories of long-ago crimes, hatreds, relationships — rapes and murders. The mysteries deepen as the important characters appear and soon reveal themselves. Olof, for example, had confessed to the rape and murder of a teen-aged girl when he was fourteen years old. But he was not imprisoned or kept in any sort of custody; he was simply told to leave town and never come back; the body of the victim was never found. There had also been a gang rape of another young woman by a group of wayward teenagers. Years later, after Olof had discovered his father’s body and was living in the house, it was set on fire and destroyed. Olof had been inside, but he escaped into a nearby forest, where he was attacked by mysterious forces and almost killed. Then, as the story progresses, the dead body of another young man is discovered in the area where Olof’s victim had allegedly disappeared. The crimes, old and new, multiply, the characters are stripped of their emotional armor, and the suspense mounts right along with the accumulation of fear and horror.
The plot is structured so carefully, so adroitly, that we find ourselves inextricably drawn in as each mystery is gradually, sometimes shockingly, solved. Or almost solved. The entire novel is chillingly challenging and brilliantly rendered. “We Know You Remember” is a superb procedural and an acutely revelatory reading experience.
This review, by Jack Kramer, was first posted on Bookreporter.com.
Please note: This review is based on the advance readers copy provided by Harper, the publisher, for review purposes.