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by Camilla Grebe and Elizabeth Clark Wessel, trans.
Ballantine, December 2016
368 pages
ISBN: 0425284328

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Two murders, ten years apart, both so similar. In both cases, the head of the victim was separated from its body and placed facing the door with its eyes held open. This time, the murder of a beautiful young woman took place in the home of a well-known clothing store magnate, Jesper Orre, and Jesper is missing. It is assumed that Jesper is the murderer, but there appears to be absolutely no link between the first victim and Jesper, and the police can't figure out who the latest victim is.

As the police search for Jesper in the dead of a Stockholm winter and at the same time try to determine who the victim is, the story is told from three perspectives in alternating chapters focused on Peter, a detective on the case; Hanne, a psychological profiler suffering from early onset Alzheimers; and Emma, a young clothing store worker in Jesper's empire. The relationships between Peter and Hanne and between Emma and Jesper parallel and contrast with one another at the same time that they make the reader wonder if there is a good man left in Stockholm.

THE ICE BENEATH HER is yet another unreliable narrator book in a long series of these published over the past few years. However, it is exceptionally well-written, with all characters, both major and minor, portrayed with depth. The structure allows each of the three main characters to fill in the history and background leading up to the murders, and in doing so it brings other characters associated with Emma, Hanne, and Peter into the light as well.

There are some surprises in the book, as well as some long, slow lead-ups to understanding the truth in spite of the characters' misdirection. In the end, Grebe pulls all the threads together into a satisfying resolution. While the male characters inspire little sympathy, the reader feels Hanne's struggles to lead a fulfilling life for as long as she can. In any case, sympathetic or not, the complexity with which Grebe imbues her characters makes them all seem quite real.

This excellent thriller will especially appeal to those who like twisted plots with unreliable narrators, or even to those who are weary of unreliable narrators but can appreciate a complex plot expertly written. This is a standalone book, and the first written solely by Camilla Grebe. However, she has co-authored two books in a series with Asa Traff, and I will definitely be seeking those out. She is a wonderful writer, bringing plot, characters, and setting to life.

Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, January 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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