Scandinavian crime fiction has a reputation of being some of the most morally complex and gritty writing available in the genre. This of course is a stereotype, but like most stereotypes, it is rooted in some grains of truth. One recent example from the region—Blaze Me a Sun by Christoffer Carlsson—certainly supports this theory, while also demonstrating that with new writers entering the field, Nordic noir continues to evolve beyond any attempts to pigeonhole it as just one thing.
Christoffer Carlsson is the youngest winner of the Best Swedish Novel of the Year award and from the moment readers begin Blaze Me a Sun, they will understand why. His use of language is almost transcendent in both beauty and purpose. (It would be remiss not to highlight translator Rachael Willson-Broyles here as well, as certainly her contribution allowed this stunning work to be enjoyed by a wider audience.) While this longer novel is a commitment, readers will find themselves so transported by the work that the time investment is easily justified—the larger contemplations of guilt, responsibility, and familial bonds are a bonus that will linger far longer than any minor outlay of a few hours reading.
Blaze Me a Sun has an unusual beginning, dropping readers late into a story that is generations in the making. Those first few chapters may leave readers on unstable ground, unsure of where to center themselves, but very quickly, the novel flashes back in time and proceeds in strict chronological order. The plot itself—albeit, not the execution or the take-home—is simple enough. On the Winter night in 1986 when Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme is assassinated, a local policeman named Sven Jörgensson is called in to investigate the rape and murder of a woman. The perpetrator has called the station stating, “I’m going to do it again,” which would put everyone on high alert, if there weren’t larger Global concerns also in play.
This case becomes even more complicated when two more women are killed. In many ways, it becomes Sven Jörgensson’s obsession. So much so that his inability to solve this crime becomes a psychological burden and something he passes on to his son, Vidar, who becomes a policeman and continues the attempts to solve these serial crimes and possibly discover a link between them and Palme’s assassination.
The third string of the story—and the one that brings us back to the start of the novel—is the journey of a novelist who becomes fascinated with the same unsolved cases. This writer grew up in the area and knew the Jörgenssons, so his interest in the case comes with some nostalgia about his own youth. What this novelist uncovers about the crime will send shockwaves through the years and through a community left damaged in the wake of senseless violence.
Blaze Me a Sun is not an action-packed read, but the case in question is so compelling that the pages of the novel turn faster and faster as the tension and suspense increases. The multiple timelines allow for the constant feeling of forward momentum, even when the action takes unexpected detours. It is no surprise that Blaze Me a Sun is already considered a game-changing novel in the Nordic noir canon.
Christoffer Carlsson is already a household name in his native land, but Blaze Me a Sun will find new fans eager to read his other works.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.