A Darker Shade, ed. John-Henri Holmberg

Second paragraph of third story (“Never in Real Life” / “Aldrig i verkligheten”, by Åke Edwardson):

Hon läste kartan. Hon var faktiskt bra på det. De kom längre och längre bort från civilisationen men hon missade inte en avtagsväg.She read the map. She was actually good at it. They drove farther and farther away from civilization, but she never missed a turn.

I got this in advance of Worldcon 75 because John-Henri Holmberg was one of the guests of honour in Helsinki. I know him vaguely because we have ended up on panels together at all three European Worldcons this century, but this was my chance to get into his work. Which I then failed to do in advance of the convention – who knew that running the Hugo Awards takes up quite a lot of one’s spare time???

It’s an anthology of seventeen short stories by Swedish writers, all of them about crime and detection rather than sf or fantasy. Authors include a couple I had heard of, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, and lots more whose names were new to me. Good gender balance. Almost all the stories are set in Sweden, which has been on my mind recently because it is about to assume the EU presidency.

Brief parenthesis: I’ve been to Sweden precisely four times in my life, three of them with my sister. We passed through Stockholm by train in 1990 to and from a visit to Finland, and then I happened to coincide with her when I attended a conference there in April 2006. A year before that, in May 2005, I attended a NATO conference in the skiing resort of Åre, without my sister but with several foreign ministers, and panelled with the stars.

Left to right:
James Elles, MEP
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, foreign minister of Croatia and later President of Croatia
Pierre Lellouche, member of the French National Assembly, later trade minister and EU minister
Dimitrij Rupel, foreign minister of Slovenia
Nicholas Burns, then Under Secretary for Political Affairs in the US State Department, now US ambassador to China
Kastriot Islami, foreign minister of Albania

Going back to the anthology, the weakest story is unfortunately the one by Stieg Larsson, later famous for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels, but he was only 17 when he wrote it (and would probably have blocked its publication if he had still been alive). But the rest are generally good, some very good. At short length you can’t fit in a lot of detection, so more often than not the stories are from the perpetrator’s point of view, but with some interesting twists. The cold revenge of the protagonist of Inger Frimansson’s “In Our Darkened House” will linger with me. A good read. You can get it here.