Gavrik sits on the edge of Utgard forest, a dark and dense expanse of spruce trees. The town relies on two things, forestry and hunting. At the start of elk hunting season a body is found in the forest. Twenty years ago the Medusa killer stalked these very woods, have they returned?

I’ve been saved by a rifle shot on the first day of elk the hunt. Three years ago, in London, that sound would have been a headline and it would have been horrific. Now, here in Vรคrmland, in this life, it’s normal. Safe, even.

The story is told from the perspective of Tuva, a deaf reporter who has moved to the Swedish town to be closer to her dying mother. Tuva is scared of nature, the creatures that dwell in it and the very likely possibility of getting lost in there. I don’t think much of the UK’s woodland is that intimidating but if you have ever wandered into a big commercial forest, you know how eerie they can be. Utgard is its own character in this tale.

Gavrik is a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business and it can make investigating difficult. Tuva is an outsider, she doesn’t have loyalties other than to her story, but of course people will close ranks. With the national press arriving, the townspeople are worried that her words will scare off visitors.

I loved all the different oddballs of the town. So many potential suspects! Whilst some definitely feel like red herrings I was left guessing right up until the reveal. I’d love to revisit Gavrik but I fear Tuva might decide to go back to the city for future instalments.

It’s a slow and thoughtful murder mystery, and much of the tension is provided by other things. Will Tuva actually make it to her terminally ill mother’s bedside? Is her fear of nature going to best her? Will her hearing aid batteries last out the day?

Tuva doesn’t let her deafness get in the way. She lost her hearing as a child and uses hearing aids. Her narrative shows how she experiences the sounds of the world, through the feedback, missed snippets of conversation, the silence when she wants it and when she doesn’t. It’s part of who she is and it doesn’t stop her doing her job. Tuva’s fear stems back to the death of her father, a car accident involving an elk. She knows how deadly nature can be.

Will Dean moved to a remote part of Sweden and I get the feeling that some of Tuva’s feelings towards the remote lifestyle are shaped by the author’s own experience.

Listening Notes

Maya Lindh was the perfect narrator for Tuva. Dark Pines is the first audiobook I managed to get to the end of, although I did find the speech a little too slow and had to listen at a faster speed. Maya has a lovely, soft and slightly accented voice which fitted with a character a little out of her comfort zone. I’d definitely listen to the next book in the series if she is chosen to narrate it. I’m not sure I would have liked the book so much without her narration, she added so much to the atmosphere.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 5. Nordic noir

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Book source: purchased