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Winter Grave

Winter Grave

by Helene Tursten, Marlaine Delargy

Narrated by Stina Nielsen

Unabridged — 9 hours, 15 minutes

Helene Tursten
Winter Grave

Winter Grave

by Helene Tursten, Marlaine Delargy

Narrated by Stina Nielsen

Unabridged — 9 hours, 15 minutes

Helene Tursten

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Two young girls are missing. A police officer is found dead. Detective Inspector Embla Nystrom must quickly solve the mystery and find the children before the small town takes matters into their own hands.

When a little girl disappears a few weeks before Christmas, suspicions fall to the last person she was seen with: the mentally disabled teenage boy who gave her a ride home after school. Complicating the matter is the fact that detectives can hardly get a word out of him.

Meanwhile, 28-year-old Detective Inspector Embla is newly back at work and still trying to recover from her recent brush with a killer, which left her unable to get back in the ring to defend her title as Nordic light welterweight champion. When a second child disappears and a police officer is found dead, tensions in the small town of Stromstad, Sweden, reach an all-time high—as are Embla's nightmares. As she hunts for the missing children, Embla can't help but think of the case that has been haunting her for years: the disappearance of her childhood best friend. Could the cases be linked? With each passing dark winter day, the odds of finding the children alive shrink, while desperation mounts. Their fathers want answers and will stop at nothing—including murder—to get them.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly


Det. Insp. Embla Nystrom, who’s also a big game hunter and Nordic light welterweight champion, has a lot on her plate in Tursten’s fast-paced sequel to 2018’s Hunting Game. In Strömstad in western Sweden, she takes on a lethal combination of two missing children, arson, and a policeman’s murder. On the personal side, she has a torrid affair with the married lawyer of a suspect and must cope with nightmares about a lost friend. Though badly injured when assaulted by a man during a moose hunt the previous year, Embla relishes the thrill of the hunt, whether stalking wild boar—or killers bent on gory revenge. Embla and her team manage to create satisfying personal relationships and enjoy some great nights out, and the villains get appropriately punished. Embla also crosses paths with Tursten’s other detective heroine, Irene Huss, and their professional chemistry clicks. Readers will be curious to see how Tursten develops her complex lead in future outings. Those looking for Scandinavian crime fiction that’s not entirely bleak will be rewarded. (Dec.)

From the Publisher

An ABA Indie Next Pick December 2019

Praises for Winter Grave

“[A] winning series.”
Wall Street Journal

“An engrossing read.”
BBC Culture

“A complex, rounded, and dedicated cop . . . Fans of intelligent Nordic crime fiction—especially those starring Tursten’s other series character, Irene Huss—will be amply rewarded.”
—The Seattle Times

“Embla Nyström is back. This time in full force . . . Tursten delivers with an intricate, complex (but not confusing), carefully constructed plot with a long list of victims and a longer list of suspects to go with it . . . a perfect winter read.”
Mystery Scene Magazine

“An icy blend of everything we love about Scandinavian thrillers . . . Winter Grave will draw you in with its three-dimensional characters and twisting plot—and leave you with the thrilling sense that the universe is a very dark place kept illuminated by people like Embla Nyström.”

“If you’re looking for an alternative to the hard-drinking, self-lacerating, morose detectives who dominate Scandinavian noir, Swedish cop Embla Nyström might be your girl.”
Air Mail News 

"Fans of Nordic noir will sink into this complicated series of linked crimes." 
AudioFile Magazine 

“Embla, a sharp-witted detective and titled boxer, inspires confidence that the truth will out, despite the pervasive gloom of Tursten’s Swedish winter . . . a winner for fans of Scandinavian crime fiction and atmospheric British procedurals, like those by Susan Hill, Deborah Crombie, and Reginald Hill.”

“A lethal combination of two missing children, arson, and a policeman’s murder . . . Those looking for Scandinavian crime fiction that’s not entirely bleak will be rewarded.”
—Publishers Weekly

“A series of satisfying twists and turns.”
Library Journal

“Tursten’s books present the Swedish setting as if it were a character, in rich, active detail. The cultural quirks that make this so interesting for American readers are front and center in the crimes . . . Make room on the bookshelf for more of this intriguing series.”
—New York Journal of Books

“A full, rich portrait of (here) small-town Sweden . . . it is well worth setting aside a few hours to immerse yourself in what is an example of Swedish not-completely-noir.”
Reviewing the Evidence

“An excellent mystery.”
Kittling Books

Praise for Hunting Game, the first Embla Nyström investigation

“Impetuous and physical . . . [Embla is] a bright light among young Swedish cop characters.”
—Toronto Star

“Embla is a winning new Scandinavian noir lead.” 
—BBC Culture

“A breathless thriller that’s impossible to put down. I was fascinated by Embla, a credible and complex character who is hiding secrets . . . A great reading experience.”
—Anna Jansson, author of the Maria Wern series

“[An] outstanding series launch . . . Embla is a refreshingly capable lead, whose situational ethics means that she doesn’t feel she must do everything by the book.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review  

“[Embla] is a sharp, willful, though emotionally vulnerable detective. Fans of the Huss novels in particular and Nordic noir in general will want to follow this series from its start.”
—Booklist, Starred Review

Library Journal


In this second thriller featuring DI Embla Nyström (following Hunting Game), Swedish author Tursten deepens the characterization of her 28-year-old series lead, the reigning Nordic light welterweight champion, who is called in to solve a series of seemingly unrelated crimes. First, a nine-year-old girl disappears two weeks before Christmas and police suspect the teenage boy in whose car she was last seen. Then a second child vanishes, followed by the murder of a police officer and the fire at the teenage suspect's home that kills his father. The novel's first half often struggles with pacing, as the crimes mount and the focus bounces around various Strömstad authorities who try to determine how these crimes are linked. Once Embla asserts herself as the primary investigator, the story finds its rhythm, and Tursten guides it through a series of satisfying twists and turns. VERDICT A solid purchase for collections in which Nordic noir circulates regularly, though Tursten's novels aren't nearly as bleak or as humorless as others in the genre. [See Prepub Alert, 6/3/19.]—Michael Pucci, South Orange P.L., NJ

Kirkus Reviews

Detective Embla Nyström (Hunting Game, 2019) returns to the Gothenburg region's Violent Crimes Unit just in time to head the search for two missing children.

After missing the school bus home, 9-year-old Amelie Holm hitches a ride with Kristoffer Sjöberg, the cousin of her friend Tuva. That's the last that anyone sees of her—unless you count the fact that 17-year-old Kristoffer, who's on the autism spectrum and doesn't talk much under ideal circumstances, eventually says that he dropped her off at her house. In the meantime, his father, wealthy intermittent alcoholic Olof Sjöberg, has lawyered up and warned the police to stay away from his son. And so they do, distracted at first by the fatal stabbing of Norwegian gangster Robert Halvorsen. When a second child, 6-year-old Viggo Andersson, disappears, Embla and her VCU teammates get more interested in the case, especially because the fathers of the two vanished children have been close friends since they were children themselves. A body turns up in a remote ditch, but it's that of Strömstad police officer Viktor Jansson, not one of the missing children. Ugly online rumors outpace the investigation, and while the police are still trying to put the pieces together, someone, evidently convinced that Kristoffer is behind both disappearances, sets fire to Sjöberg's home, killing him and sending Kristoffer to the hospital, where he's attacked yet again by an assailant wielding a knife just like the one that stabbed Robert Halvorsen. "What the hell is going on in Strömstad?" wonder the members of the Regional Crime Center, doubtless echoing the sentiments, and maybe even the tone, of many readers. But don't tell that to Embla, a former boxing champ who may never fight again but has at least made a highly satisfactory sexual connection.

Tursten eventually ties all the strands together, but the effect is more sad than logically or dramatically memorable.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940177916873
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 03/11/2020
Series: Detective Inspector Embla Nystrom , #2
Edition description: Unabridged

Read an Excerpt

Her heart was pounding and her stomach contracted with fear. Amelie was on the edge of her seat during the last ten minutes of the lesson. As soon as the bell rang, she leaped to her feet and raced out into the corridor, with Tuva right behind her.
     “I’ll come with you to the bus stop!” Tuva shouted.
      The girls pulled on their jackets as they ran toward the door, pausing briefly on the stairs to zip them up and put on their hats. It was already dark outside, and the bitter wind blowing in off the sea was icy cold. On top of everything else, it was pouring. Only two weeks to go until Christmas Eve, and not a flake of snow in sight. Horrible! Amelie thought. She would have liked to turn around and rejoin her classmates, but she had to dash home to pick up her Lucia robe and her candle.
      The music teacher had said that everyone had to get changed so that it would feel real when they practiced for the last time before the Christmas concert and the Lucia procession. Dress rehearsal, that’s what she’d called it.
      Things had been chaotic that morning. As usual her brother, Julien, hadn’t wanted to go to preschool; he was always tired and grumpy when he woke up. Their mom had spent ages coaxing him into his clothes, and they had all been seriously stressed—and very late—by the time they left the house. In the rush Amelie had forgotten her Lucia bag, which was still sitting on the floor in the hallway.
      She had her own bus pass because she didn’t want to go to after-school club anymore. There was only one stop between the school and Önnaröd, where she lived, but it was dangerous to walk along the narrow road in the dark. Even though she had reflectors on both her boots and her coat sleeves, Mom insisted that she catch the bus. Tuva lived near school, so she didn’t need a pass. The girls were best friends. Amelie would be ten in two months and three days, and she thought after-school club was for little kids. Tuva agreed, even though her birthday wasn’t until May 5.
     The girls could hear the bus pulling up at the stop. Or was it leaving?
      “Wait!” they yelled.
      They ran down the hill as fast as they could, only to see the red taillights disappearing into the distance. The next bus wasn’t due for twenty minutes. No! She had to be back for the rehearsal in half an hour!
      The girls stood at the deserted bus shelter for a couple of minutes, trying to catch their breath. Maybe Amelie should just run home—it would only take ten minutes. But then I’ll stink, she thought. The familiar sound of a chugging engine cut through her thoughts. Kristoffer! He and Tuva were related, although Amelie wasn’t quite sure how. He’d given them a ride on his EPA-tractor several times.
      Tuva positioned herself by the side of the road, frantically waving her arms as the slow, short truck approached. Amelie’s heart started pounding as Kristoffer stopped. He wound down the window and gave them an inquiring look. Loud rockabilly music poured from the speakers, echoing around the bus shelter.
      “Hi—can you give Amelie a ride? She missed the bus . . . Pleeease, Kristoffer!”
      He nodded and Amelie ran around to the other side of the vehicle. She gave Tuva a cheerful wave before opening the door and jumping in. She sank down on the soft seat with a sigh of relief. White leather—cool. Kristoffer’s EPA-tractor, no, A-tractor, was really nice. He was very particular about the names of cars, and apparently EPA-tractor was an old-fashioned term. There was a lovely smell from the fir-tree-shaped air freshener that dangled from the rearview mirror. Or maybe the smell was the gel Kristoffer used to keep his long hair in place? His “Elvis quiff,” that’s what Tuva called it. She thought it looked good, but Amelie wasn’t impressed. She liked One Direction, and none of the boys in the band had that kind of hairstyle. Kristoffer’s hoodie was covered in dirt and oil stains, as were his jeans. Amelie knew that he and his dad fixed up old cars.
      She gave Tuva another wave as they set off.
      “We’ve got a rehearsal and we have to wear our Lucia costumes, but we don’t need any sparkle, not until tomorrow. It’s the Christmas concert. All the parents come to watch. Me and Tuva are part of the procession. We sing all the time, and the little ones get to be sheep and shepherds, and we’re like angels and . . .”
      Amelie chattered away. She knew Kristoffer, after all, though she had never been alone with him since Tuva had always been there when he had given them a ride in the past. But he seemed the same as always, and maybe she kept on talking because she knew he wouldn’t answer. He didn’t say much. Hardly anything, in fact. He was nice, though. He was taking her home. She leaned back in her seat, secure in the knowledge that she’d be back at school in time.
Julien was every bit as difficult in the afternoon when Maria arrived to pick him up from preschool. He flatly refused to go home. He and Malte were in the middle of building something with Legos, and there was no way it could wait until the following day. Maria felt the sweat trickling down her back as she tried to cajole and persuade him. Eventually she grabbed him and forced him into his outdoor clothes. He was cross and overtired. People talked about the terrible twos, but he was five years old now and had been behaving that way ever since he was born, Maria thought irritably. She exchanged a weary glance with the teacher, who had joined them in the entrance hall. Together they managed to get Julien into his jacket and boots, but they gave up on his thick waterproof over-trousers. Needless to say, he tripped and fell in a great big puddle on the way to the car. His jeans were soaked through, and he started whining again.
      “We’re just going to collect Amelie, then we’ll go straight home. You can have hot chocolate with whipped cream, and I’ll take some cinnamon buns out of the freezer. I think we’ve earned a treat after a day like this, don’t you?”
      She kissed his forehead and lifted him into the car. She had a struggle with the child seat, of course—it was definitely one of those days! Only when she sank down in the driver’s seat did she let out a long breath. Thank goodness they were only a few minutes away from Amelie’s school. She could use a hot chocolate and a cinnamon bun herself.
Maria looked from Tuva to Therese Jansson, the girls’ music teacher, in confusion. There were only the three of them in the hall where the concert was due to take place the next day. A strong smell of resin was coming from the tall Christmas tree in the corner, its branches weighed down with all the decorations the children had added.
      “She didn’t come back?”
      “No. I called her like a thousand times, but there’s no answer,” Tuva said.
      “I tried calling her, too, both on her cell and your home number, but I had my hands full with the rehearsal . . .” Therese Jansson made an apologetic gesture and swallowed hard. Maria noticed that her hand was shaking as she pushed her large horn-rimmed glasses up her nose. She’s worried, too.
      “Amelie wouldn’t just not turn up,” Maria said.
      “Absolutely not, and she was really looking forward to singing her solo,” the teacher agreed.
      “She always answers her cell,” Tuva said firmly.
      She’s right, Amelie always picks up, Maria thought, her anxiety growing.
      “I’ll drive you home, Tuva,” she said quickly.
      “Can you let me know when you find her? It doesn’t matter how late it is,” Therese Jansson said nervously.
      Maria was already on her way to the car.

They’d searched the house and garden. Julien had been happy to race around hunting for his sister. Hide-and-seek was his favorite game, so he knew all the best places. But he couldn’t find Amelie anywhere.
      On the counter there was a glass with a drop of milk in the bottom, and a banana skin was in the sink. Before Amelie left, she had gone to the bathroom to pee, and she’d forgotten to flush, presumably because she was in a hurry. There was no sign of the plastic bag containing her Lucia costume and the little battery-powered candle, so Maria knew that her daughter had been home, eaten something, gone to the toilet, grabbed the bag, and dashed off into the rain and darkness. But she hadn’t made it back to school . . .
      Mechanically Maria made hot chocolate and defrosted the promised cinnamon bun in the microwave for Julien. As he settled down contentedly with his snack, she called everyone she could think of. No one had seen or heard from Amelie. She tried her daughter’s cell phone at regular intervals; the signal rang out, but there was no reply. Tuva was right—Amelie always answered her cell. Only recently she’d been given a new model, and she was so proud of it.
      Fear constricted Maria’s throat. Eventually she managed to pull herself together enough to contact her mother-in-law. Her hands shook as she keyed in the number. When she heard Iris Holm’s calm voice, Maria’s self-control gave way and she started to cry. She was relieved that Iris was home; she’d always been a reliable support. Between sobs Maria explained that Amelie was missing. She asked Iris if she could come over and look after Julien while she went out to search the area.

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