Blood Song (Roy & Castells Series)

Written by Johana Gustawsson
Review by Ann Chamberlin

The modern setting and murder of three members of a well-to-do Swedish family are unraveled in the usual hard, dark style of the popular Nordic mystery genre. The couple have been running a profitable but perhaps underhanded fertility clinic that offers many options for motives from patients, both frustrated and gratified.

The very limited history part of this novel comes in brief interspersed chapters that flashback to the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, a neglected but brutal episode of human history. Extolled by Hemingway in heroic terms, the grim fates of orphaned children and other victims are often overlooked. Gustawsson focuses particularly on the inmates of the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison and the children forcibly taken from them to grow up in Madrid’s La Virgen de los Desamparados Orphanage during the time of Franco. Children wanted and too many unwanted make a gripping interplay, but we are always relieved to come back to the icy cold of a Swedish winter and police procedural.

Fascist Spain during this period is a time we all could learn more about, more than these brief snippets. It’s not clear if we could endure it in broader sweeps than this, however.