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Viveca Sten, I den innersta kretsen (In the Innermost Circle)

Forum,  2009. ISBN: 9789137134727

Reviewed by Marlaine Delargy in SBR 2009:2

There can be few more appealing places than the Stockholm archipelago on a beautiful summer’s day, and in her new novel Viveca Sten once again takes the reader into the heart of the community on the island of Sandhamn. This is the second free-standing story in a series of crime novels featuring Detective Inspector Thomas Andreasson and his childhood friend Nora Linde, a lawyer. Thomas is still struggling to come to terms with the death of his young daughter and the subsequent break-up of his marriage, while Nora’s own marriage to the increasingly arrogant and distant Henrik is in serious trouble.

It is a sunny day in July. A party atmosphere fills the air, and the sea off Sandhamn is packed with boats; everyone is there to watch the start of the annual race around Gotland. The starting pistol is fired; a huge Swan yacht is in the lead, but suddenly drops back. The skipper has been shot, in the middle of the open sea. The victim turns out to be Oscar Juliander, a successful sailor and vice-chairman of the Royal Swedish Yachting Society. He was an established lawyer with a considerable media presence, and the pressure on the police to solve the case quickly is immense.

Thomas Andreasson and the team begin looking into Juliander’s life, and quickly realise that his charming façade concealed infidelity, drugs, crooked dealings and threats. But what has made someone murder him in such a calculated way? Has the wife he deceived had enough at long last? Has he made enemies through his work as a bankruptcy administrator – enemies who decided it was time to get him out of the way? Thomas turns to Nora for help with the tangled complexity of Juliander’s financial affairs, and she is glad of the distraction from her troubled private life. Her legal knowledge enables her to see the hidden connections, and the police believe they are on the right track at last – until another of the yachting society’s board members is killed, turning the investigation on its head.

Viveca Sten skilfully evokes the holiday atmosphere of the archipelago, but as in her previous novel I de lugnaste vatten (Still Waters), there are darker forces at work among the residents of Sandhamn. She writes with a deep personal knowledge of the area and the yachting community, and one of her strengths is her ability to create a range of characters that are both engaging and believable, leaving the reader wanting to know what happens next to Thomas and Nora. For once there is no unresolved sexual tension between the two main characters; they are good friends, and are able to support each other on an emotional and practical level without further complications. This is a very enjoyable story – the perfect summer read, in fact, and a welcome addition to the growing number of Swedish crime novels.

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