Today it is my absolute pleasure to be sharing my review of Dark Pines by Will Dean, book one in the Tuva Moodyson series. I have been very late to the party with this one but made up for lost ground by listening to the audio book on one of my recent trips away. I can confirm that there is a bloody good reason why this book was featured on the Zoe Ball Book Club the other week – it’s fluffing fabulous. For those not in the know, here is the all important book bit:
About the Book
An isolated Swedish town.
A deaf reporter terrified of nature.
A dense spruce forest overdue for harvest.
A pair of eyeless hunters found murdered in the woods.
It’s week one of the Swedish elk hunt and the sound of gunfire is everywhere. When Tuva Moodyson investigates the story that could make her career she stumbles on a web of secrets that knit Gavrik town together. Are the latest murders connected to the Medusa killings twenty years ago? Is someone following her? Why take the eyes? Tuva must face her demons and venture deep into the woods to stop the killer and write the story. And then get the hell out of Gavrik.
I’m not going to lie to you. I have been delaying and delaying and delaying in writing this review. Each time I have a space in the blog I have put off filling it with this review and found something else to write instead. Why? Not because the book is no good. Not at all. It is exactly the opposite – its bloody fabulous – and that has made me nervous. Nervous because whatever I write here just might not be enough …
I’m not going to discuss plot other than to say that the central story – the one mentioned in the blurb above – is just the beginning. It is grotesque, it is perhaps a little disturbing, and it is so steeped in superstition and tradition of its remote Swedish setting that while parts of it may make your skin crawl, it fits perfectly. In a community in which hunting is almost a rite of passage, there could almost be no other victim than those who we come across very early in the book, and perhaps no finer hero (or heroine) than Tuva Moodyson to get to the bottom of the story.
Tuva, as the blurb suggests, is a slightly unique character. Not in terms of her tenacity, although she has this by the bucket load, her skill as a journalist, overwhelmingly underutilized in her current job, or her ambition, which would see her progress from a small town style publication to the mean streets of New York or London given half the chance. Tuva is slightly unique in that she is deaf. Not the first character with a diagnosed disability to take centre stage in a novel by any stretch, but certainly I think for me, the first time I have read of a deaf character being so embroiled in a murder case, unless you count Sue Thomas from the TV series. Based on true life perhaps but I’m not sure a job with the FBI and that of a reporter in Sweden are quite the same thing.
I really liked Tuva. She is more than her disability and her character is developed so beautifully by Will Dean that, aside from the moments when the weather plays havoc with her hearing aids, you’d be forgiven for forgetting she was deaf at all. Her ability around this issue more than make up for what she has lost with her hearing. It is not trivialised, it is not sensationalised. She is not depicted as wonder woman nor as someone to be pitied and rightly so. The balance is perfect and it plays into the story in ways you cannot begin to understand until you read it. Those moments of quiet which you often crave in the centre of a busy crime novel come in full force here, inflated by Tuva’s sense of isolation when completely cut off from the world of sound. Will Dean has perfectly amplified the experience of the reader in all other senses as Tuva would experience herself and, certainly through the audio book, it worked brilliantly.
I loved the atmosphere that Will Dean has recreated on each and every page. From the highly tense opening when Tuva comes face to face (or truck to face) with a charging Stag, you get a feeling for how the rest of the book will flow. An ominous feeling of dread, of foreboding, seeps from every page, evolving from moments of calm and almost serenity through to those passages where your heart will be thumping, your skin crawling and your nerves jangling due to the nail biting tension of the story. I will admit, as some one who is not entirely a fan of all that nature has to offer (I hate bugs – the generally have an odd number of legs on each side which is just creepy) there is one scene towards the end in which descriptions of the Moose tick really made me shudder. It is no wonder Tuva also has a fear of the great outdoors – perhaps not the best for someone in her job role though.
The characters that inhabit this wonderful world of Tuva’s really make the book for me. From the strange Troll making sisters to the reclusive writer, the business mogul and the strange man in the woods, they are so diverse, so unique and so damned creepy, that each in turn becomes a suspect in the murders which Tuva has resolved to solve. But are they genuine suspects or a red herring? Each would seemingly have either motive or opportunity but who really benefits from seeing the hunters dead and why collect such a grotesque trophy as the one the killer takes?
I could wax lyrical about this book for days but the only way you will really understand its beauty is to read it for yourself. If you like books with the stylistic feel of the very best Scandi-Noir, or stories which blend tradition, superstition, atmosphere and plain old fashioned good storytelling then this is the book for you. The audio version was superb and comes highly recommended from me, with narrator Maya Lindh doing a most awesome job. I certainly cannot wait to read more from Will Dean and Red Pines (out in ebook in December) cannot come soon enough for me.
With a central character you cannot help but love, this book is creepy, chilling, atmospheric and just plain brilliant. I love this kind of story and I loved this book. Go buy it now. You won’t regret it. Dark Pines is available from the following retailers: