This review can also be read in the Canon City Daily Record.
Fourteen-year-old Frederika, and her younger sister, Dorotea, herd the family's goats further into Blakasen, the mountain that is their new home in Swedish Lapland. It is 1717, and their family has left their fishing boat behind in Finland to try their fortune on a homestead, far from the water that haunted their father. In a glade, amidst their muttering about summer heat and their frustration with the finality of relocation, the girls stumble upon the mutilated body of a man, left to rot. Fellow settlers dismiss the death as an attack by wolves, but Maija, the girls' mother, insists the man was murdered.
As an outsider, Maija's interest in the murder is not appreciated. Winter is upon them all, and there is neither time nor energy for her sleuthing. But she presses forward, fearful for her own family's safety. The intelligent and thoughtful woman gathers information from those about her - members of her new community, the village priest, and the "Lapps" who roam the land, following the reindeer herds.
Frederika, herself, has become haunted by the treachery on Blackasen. Visited by the spirit of her great-grandmother, and well-armed with the folklore of a Nordic culture, the young girl discovers there is a fine line between evil and light, truth and deceit.
Here on the dark and unforgiving mountain, a community, meant to create safety and survival through harsh and forbidding winters, begins to succumb to the burden of secrets and deception. Culture and faith, spirit and politics, seasons and verity collide. And their priest, the man who must act as the liaison between the king and his subjects, and God and his children, has his own craftiness to manage.
As bitter cold descends upon the villagers, they find themselves in the middle of the harshest winter anyone can remember, a "wolf winter." The stillness and silence accompanying heavy snow swallows time. Its passing is shown through exquisite vignettes - pieces of quiet poetry.
This beautiful and eerie tale, set in a faraway land and a faraway time, flows with a unique voice and well-conceived characters. Ms. Ekback's writing evokes suspense, doubt, and brief glimmers of hope. There is room for more exploration of Maija's compelling desire to find the killer despite the real risk to herself and her family. And some of the sentences stuttered a bit, but the history and the finely wrought details are enchanting, creating a thoroughly engrossing novel.
The last 10 pages of this Northern whodunit are satisfying and complete. Without loose ends to tangle and confuse, this stunning debut novel is one to savor and enjoy.
Photo credit: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51KOL8%2Bij9L._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg