Nordic Noir : Spring Tide by Cilla & Rolf Borjlind


springtideSpring Tide was the long awaited Nordic Noir novel by married writing partners Cilla and Rolf Borjlind. It involves the dark story of a night on a  beach in  Nordkoster Sweden where a young boy, hidden in the dunes, witnesses three men bury a woman up to her neck in the sand, destined for a slow and terrifying death as the tide waters slowly fill her mouth with water but there is the added complication that she happens to be pregnant as well. Fast forward twenty years later and a fresh crime wave sweeps Stockholm. A spate of rough sleepers are being badly beaten by an underground organisation called Trashkick and the film is  then chillingly posted  onto the net in a form, of ritual humiliation.  I found it the depiction of the crimes distasteful, dark, and violent . The writers seemed to give the crime a contemporary edge with the  killers posting videos of the acts on  social media. 

We are introduced to one of the central characters, a  police student Olivia  Ronning. Young and ambitious with a connected past to the Nordkoster murder. We learn how (coincidently) her own father had been a policeman working on the now infamous case. As part of her college course, she has to select a case and stumbles across the infamous case of a death on a beach in Nordkester whilst researching in the library. There is the obvious familial connection, drawing  her in and so she  decides to take the case. She eventually tries to track down the detective who worked on the the case at the time and comes across the emotionally hardened Tom Stilton who after a difficult time, is now a down and out on the streets of Sweden. We are later fed tit-bits of information on how whilst working on the case, he suffers breakdown and then his own marriage ends the same way. His wafer lifestyle takes a disturbing turn when a fellow rough sleeper called Vera is brutally beaten and consequently dies from her injuries. It leaves him incensed and he becomes determined to find her killers. .

We are also introduced to another key character; Bertil Magnuson, a businessman whose past catches up with him and we see him embroiled with police`s own murder investigations.With his reputation in  tatters, coupled with a relationship that is fast becoming strained, we see how the backstory dovetails into the Nordkoster murder case investigation.

Unfortunately the story on the whole clunks along and we are given lacquer upon lacquer of details. It seems to indulge us in painting a character portrayal by numbers which might work well on the television screen but simply does not  compel you to turn the page. The wide- eyed modern day Nancy Drew character in the form of Olivia, just felt out  of synch with the seriousness of the crime and lacked any gravitas. Perhaps the writers were going for the “unlikely hero” but for me she simply failed to make a  convincing protagonist. There is  an interesting inter- play between Olivia and Tom as they muddle their way through the case as she tries to gleans information from the dysfunctional Stilton. 

Frankly the writers seemed to be afraid of offending sensibilities and should have opted for the dysfunctional Stillton  and seemingly “anti-hero as the main vehicle for the story. Occasionally we are given glimpses into his troubled past, the estranged relationship with his ex wife,who is now married. Frankly for me it was a wasted opportunity since  Stilton would have made a much more interesting protagonist within the novel.. A shadow of a man forced to take on a case , handicapped by his own less then healthy state of mind at odds with solving an old case and at odds with himself. Yes Olivia does also a lot of question asking and there is the charming obsequiousness  but nevertheless the story seemed to be pallid at times and never really picks up the pace till near the end.

Unfortunately towards the end there was a gnawing sense that the writers were trying to shoe-horn the less then original ending with some very convenient story threads. The story really needed to be honed down and made into a much more tightly muscular novel .Where was the editor ? The novel left me feeling less than rapt over the story, which  had the  a dream team behind the Swedish detective series Wallander  writing the novel, not forgetting some interesting characters. Springtide was undoubtedly well conceived but  poorly executed. 

Springtide Published by Hesperus Nova and translated by Rod Bradbury

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