Heart of Prey

In the deep woods where witches were once burned, on the shores of the rushing river that has accepted human offerings for centuries, folklore endures – and women who don’t conform still live dangerously.

Snow is lashing against the windshield of 34-year-old Annie Ljung’s car as she drives north towards the sleepy village of Lockne. She has left her job as a social worker in Stockholm for a few days to check in on her sick mother, and she knows that it won’t be a happy homecoming. A scar on her neck reminds Annie of what made her leave all those years ago, and she is terrified of facing it.

Annie’s stay in Lockne is prolonged against her will when her 17-year-old cousin Saga goes missing. At first, the police don’t seem to take the disappearance seriously. There are indications that Saga left home of her own will, but parents Sven and Lillemor insist their daughter had no reason to run away.

In town, Annie turns heads: she and the missing girl look eerily alike, and she can’t shake the feeling that people are whispering behind her back. Annie wants desperately to leave but Sven and Lillemor beg her to stay, and she is reluctant to abandon her mother. She also runs into her high-school sweetheart and her teenage best friend, who both stir up long-buried emotions. When she loses her job, it is as though the place itself is urging Annie to stay and try to come to terms with what once happened to her.

The police investigation seems to be going nowhere and Annie, not one to sit idle, begins to delve into Saga’s disappearance on her own. She takes a job at the social service office in town in order to get insight into the case. Annie has an ability to make people open up to her and she quickly has the local policemen wrapped around her finger. Soon she uncovers signs that her young cousin was keeping secrets. Perhaps Saga was not the good girl her parents make her out to be? When another teenage girl is found drugged into a coma, Annie understands the answers they are seeking are much more sinister than anyone suspected…

Heart of Prey is inspired by a historical murder case, set in an area of Sweden where witches were burned in the 1600s. In the broken yet bold social worker Annie Ljung, debut writer Ulrika Rolfsdotter has created a fresh new heroine who approaches police work from an unexpected angle. In this nail-biting debut from a new Scandinavian crime star, the witch hunts of the past have taken haunting new forms in the present.

“Rolfsdotter really knows plot and how to build suspense. Through the disappearance of 17-year-old Saga, we get to know the people around both her and Annie, while we must wait to learn the answer to what really happened to Annie. The storytelling is propulsive, told through short chapters, and at the same time the milieus are given ample room to really set the atmosphere. […] I can’t wait to return to Annie and this landscape with all of its dramatic history and fantastic nature.”
Göteborgs-Posten (SE)

“Ulrika Rolfsdotter’s debut is a welcome surprise. There’s a great appetite for crime novels and the result is a slew of subpar publications but this debut writer really has great promise. Indeed, she may well become this year’s breakout suspense star.”
Gefle Dagblad (SE)

“In a small-town where everyone knows each other, ghosts from the past chase through this thrilling and urgent debut novel.”
Aftonbladet Söndag (SE)

“Ulrika Rolfsdotter writes a vivid portrayal of a depopulation area where the last small country store is about to go bankrupt. […] An unusually strong debut.”
Lotta Olsson, Dagens Nyheter (SE)

Ulrika Rolfsdotter (1977) is a writer from Bjärtrå, Sweden. She is a social worker and cognitive behavioural therapist by profession but has been writing stories since childhood. Heart of Prey is her debut novel.

Learn more about Ulrika Rolfsdotter