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Early one wintry morning Ake Melkersson has car trouble on his way to work. He drives off the main road to a garage he vaguely recalls having used in the past. When he gets there he finds the dead body of a man on the ground. Panicking Ake speeds off, stopping in a layby from where he calls his neighbour Seja, a trainee reporter, who he asks to meet him and wait with him for the police to arrive. When Seja sees the body she behaves very strangely and she asks Ake to let the police believe she was there when he found the body. Inspector Christian Tell is the officer in charge of the investigation into the man's death and he finds it difficult to make any headway. It's not until a second murder is discovered that the police have something useful to work on.
It doesn't take Christian long to work out that Seja isn't telling the truth but rather than his discovery signifying the end of Seja's involvement in the case, it's just the beginning as, against his better judgment, Christian finds himself attracted to a woman who has already lied to him.
A second plot thread features Maya Granith, a teenager who leaves her troubled life in the city and enrols at a college in the countryside in order to start again. Her story is told in flashbacks interspersed with the murder story and slowly the two threads become interwoven. Author Camilla Ceder does hint quite strongly about the outcome but, all credit for a series of clever twists, this isnt the major spoiler it appears at one point to be. While Ceder manages to successfully tie it all together I almost didn't make it that far. After the exciting start - Who is the dead man? Who kiiled him? Why did Seja want Ake to tell the police she was with him? - the pace slows down with the introduction of this backstory and I found myself sighing with relief each time I rejoined the main plot. More than anything I find this type of structure rather tired; too many novels these days rely on a back story and I'd like to read a few more straightforward novels..
'Frozen Moment' is the first novel by Camilla Ceder and introduces Christian Tell and his colleagues for what would seem like the first in a series. In many respects Tell is the archetypal cop, a bit of a loner with relationship issues, but Ceder spends a lot of time looking at Tell's working relationships and this portrays him with a sensitivity rarely seen in crime ficiton. His colleagues similarly hold few surprises but there does appear to be room for character development and Ceder is already hinting at a number of potential storyline for several of them The cover blurb does proclaim "Move over Wallander" which is an ambitious war-cry and one that doesn't really match up. I didn;t have any big problem with Tell but I did find some of his colleagues much more interesting and if there was any intention to echo Henning Mankell's lugubrious cop, Ceder doesn't come anywhere close.
There area elements that hint that Camilla Ceder is an author to keep an eye on. Her descriptions of the Swedish countryside are easily as good as those of Mankell and the way she describes the wintry weather of that first chapter is absolutely chilling. The second half of the novel is infinitely better than the first and once the two threads start to come together the action gathers pace and the story becomes rivetting. As is often the case with Scandinavian authors there's an element of social commentary, her looking at dysfunctional families as well as the contrast between city and country living. I felt like learned something about Swedish culture without being obviously instructed.
If you enjoy Scandinavian crime fiction then Camilla Ceder is an author you shoul look out for. 'Frozen Moment' isn't brilliant but it shows a lot of promise and I know I'll be reading the next in the series. I'd recommend this novel because I think this is going to be a series that gets better the more that Ceder writes; as a stand alone I'd be much less likely to recommend.