Lindelöws bokförlag, 2014.
Reviewed by Sarah Death in SBR 2015:1
Review Section: Fiction
The opening pages of the first story in this collection, 'Confused', in translation by Laurie Thompson, appear in the 2015:1 issue of SBR
Prizewinning writer Aino Trosell is probably best known for full-length crime novels such as her deep-seadiving thriller Ytspänning (Surface Tension, 1999), but with a smaller publisher she has embarked in parallel on a series of volumes of short stories in the genre, for which she has coined and formally trademarked the title Krimineller (Criminelles). My Grave is Yours is the second collection of these, and like the first it mixes one-off stories with the continuing adventures – albeit in freestanding episodes – of her amateur sleuth Siv Dahlin, who has also featured in full-length works. Siv has the keen eye and deductive skills of a modern-day, working-class Swedish Miss Marple. She is an ordinary, middle-aged woman who keeps finding herself on the fringes of classically constructed crime mystery scenarios as she moves around Sweden looking for work. Sometimes crime comes calling as she sits out periods of unemployment in the ramshackle cottage she has inherited in the depths of the country.
The stories explore some of the darker reaches of Swedish society today, including problems of ethnic diversity and multiculturalism. The title story, for example, involves Siv Dahlin in the case of a father’s bungled attempt to commute the ‘honour killing’ of his daughter – who in his view has disgraced the family by refusing an arranged marriage – into a terrifying incarceration. The story ‘Rådlös’ (Confused) follows a young illegal immigrant with the police on his tail, who thinks he has fallen on his feet when he finds refuge in the flat of an elderly dementia patient cared for at home by social services, but the plot takes a gut-wrenching turn at the end.
There are also stories set in traditional rural settings where time has apparently stood still; one in which a midsummer’s eve family gathering gets out of hand, for example, is part of a long tradition of Swedish storytelling. In another, in which Siv is at her cottage, a young woman neighbour’s murder and the possible implication of several locals on snow scooters seems ripe for filming as a slice of timeless Nordic Noir. But for me, the most chillingly memorable story here was ‘Hannes’, in which a convicted triple child murderer meets with cold, calculated retribution from an unexpected quarter in his ‘safe’ prison cell. Almost as compelling was the longest story in the volume, the twisty ‘Flykt till sanningen’ (Flight to the Truth) about a young man on the run from his own family, unsure whether his manipulative cousin is friend or foe. Reaching another Swedish city, the fugitive is given a roof over his head by a Pakistani greengrocer with an ailing wife, who offers him bed and board in return for minding the shop, but it is a short-lived respite.
It is no mere chance that Trosell’s protagonists are all ordinary and often underprivileged people, many of them under extreme financial pressure. Along with contemporaries such as Elsie Johansson, Kjell Johansson and Majgull Axelsson she is counted among the modern generation of proletarian writers; she worked as a welder for some years before becoming a writer, and has written semi-biographical novels about the harsh lives of the women in past generations of her own family. In My Grave is Yours Trosell also joins an expanding band of contemporary crime fiction writers emulating such greats as Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie by honing their skills in the shorter form, as evidenced by publication of a number of anthologies featuring Swedish crime stories in recent years. A story by Trosell’s fellow writer Inger Frimansson even made it (in translation, of course) to the shortlist of the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association Short Story Dagger in 2014.