Bad Apples: Swedish evil

If you think Halloween can be creepy, wait until you see how this small town in the Swedish hinterland celebrates the coming of winter. The roads are closed. A stack of apples are left to rot in the town square, filling the air with a sickly-sweet stench of decay. What follows is a wild night of debauchery in a bizarre masked festival, where the safety of visitors can’t be guaranteed. And a headless dead body is discovered, deep in the ancient forest…

Author Will Dean has definitely hit the sweet spot with his Tuva Moodyson series of Scandi crime stories. His books bound along with the fast-paced fluidity of an American thriller, but are saturated with the dense, dark detail that makes Nordic noir so creepily compelling. He captures unsettling aspects of Scandinavian customs and the complex, contradictory nature of modern Swedish society, and expresses these themes with the natural facility of a born English-speaker. The result may be a little less stylish than Scandi crime in translation, less unsettlingly alien in its thought processes, but it’s certainly more accessible for most readers.

And he’s centred his stories on an excellent character. Journalist Tuva is something of an outsider herself – profoundly deaf and dependent on hearing aids: more at home with computer gamers than polite society; hesitant to commit to a permanent relationship with a female police officer. She has a reporter’s knack for smelling a good story and getting people to open up to her – which frequently puts Tuva slap-bang in the thick of things. In the sprawling, shadowy forests, during the elk open season, this behaviour puts her in the sights of a high-powered rifle…

With a publication date perfectly timed for the ancient rites of autumn in the northern hemisphere, Bad Apples certainly explores the darker side of our sanitised modern celebrations. Dean has also crafted a genuinely ghastly scene, worthy of any Halloween horror-shocker, which will have you squirming in sympathy yet unable to tear your eyes away. You have been warned!

8/10
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Bad Apples by Will Dean is available at Amazon

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Speaking of headless dead bodies…

…that’s the killer’s signature in A Last Act Of Charity

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