Under the Storm
On a cold November night in 1994, a house burns to the ground. Inside, a young woman is found dead – murdered. To the people in the rural community of Marbäck in southern Sweden, it becomes a reference point: it creates a before and an after. For the young boy Isak Nyqvist, it sets something in motion that he cannot control. As if a stray spark has found its way inside him and set his future in flames.
The police quickly focus their attention on Edvard Christensson, the boyfriend of the murdered woman who also happens to be Isak’s beloved uncle. No one in Marbäck is surprised; Edvard is a bad seed, like his father before him. After a quick investigation where the evidence speaks for itself, Edvard is sentenced to life in prison and the dust settles over Marbäck. Vidar Jörgensson, a rookie police officer who was one of the first responders at the scene of the crime, prides himself on having contributed to solving the murder. Little does he know that not only will this become the defining case of his career, it will also drive him to the brink of professional and personal disaster.
Through his kinship with Edvard, Isak becomes forever bound to the heinous crime, and his journey from boyhood to adulthood is overshadowed by the judgmental eyes and gossip of the small community. Whatever it was that made Edvard do it – maybe Isak has that inside of him too? Lying awake at night, the child searches his body for a physical manifestation of the meanness inside that he shares with his uncle.
Nine years later, Isak Nyqvist and Vidar Jörgensson cross paths again when Isak is caught shoplifting. The encounter with the troubled teenager awakens something in the now seasoned policeman. Recently, a burglary investigation has made Vidar revisit the old arson and murder case from 1994. There’s a possible connection that is troubling him – and uncertainty about a piece of evidence won’t let him rest. As a raging storm closes in and uproots the hundred-year-old forests, Isak comes face to face with death and Vidar comes one step closer to the truth.
But it will take another thirteen years for the final pieces to fall into place. By then, Vidar has left the police force and his life is coming apart. Yet when Isak disappears and his pregnant girlfriend turns to Vidar for help, he sets out in search of the young man and the truth that has eluded them both for so long.
Under the Storm is at once a luminous coming-of-age story and a compulsively suspenseful whodunit. Through unadorned yet profound language, Christoffer Carlsson digs deep into the psyches of ordinary people and shows with utmost clarity how the ripple effects of a crime haunt a small community. With stylistic verve and low-boil suspense that evoke Kerstin Ekman’s Blackwater and an ingenious three-act structure reminiscent of the Academy Award-winning film Moonlight, Under the Storm breaks out as a stunning modern classic.
“A good book is a true pleasure. […] This is a story about a murder in Halland and it’s about as sordid and grayish as the cases we see in real life. […] Carlsson holds the reader in an iron grip. Moreover, his writing is extremely good. In fact, he writes better than pretty much everyone else. Not only in this genre – where it’s often deplorable – but among young writers on the whole. How will this end, I wonder as I put down his book and for some reason I come to think of a colleague of ours, Kerstin Ekman. She began her authorship with a few traditional detective stories before taking the big leap to the only kind of storytelling that truly matters with her novel Dödsklockan. So how will this end, I wonder.”
Leif GW Persson, Expressen (Sweden)
“An incredibly cleverly constructed novel, melancholic and suspenseful, like a cut straight out of reality.”
ingalill mossander, aftonbladet (SWEDEN)
“A novel about a crime – that is the subtitle to the crime novel Under the Storm, and it is spot on. But it is also a novel about loneliness, guilt, life in a small community, addiction, social heritage, dreams, and about the humanity in wanting to belong to someone or something. Christoffer Carlsson is a writer with a style to admire, and he also holds a key to the inner lives and minds of people that most crime writers will never find. What more, as a criminologist he has expertise that provides authenticity, along with a great talent for telling stories. […] There’s a great darkness in Under the Storm, but it’s never completely black and never without hope – not even when a great storm sweeps in and uproots the old forest, leaving Marbäck in utter darkness. Go there with Christoffer Carlsson and you will see. And even though the year is young I can safely say that Under the Storm is sure to be named one of the best crime novels of the year.”
“[Carlsson] is back at his absolute best: on the outskirts, in the quiet small towns where everyone knows everything about everyone – and at the same time not. […] Yet again Carlsson proves what a master he is, because the crime puzzle itself is secondary to the actual aim of this novel: a deep dive into the lives of the people who inhabit this small town – and the novel. Carlsson shines, he moves elegantly between different perspectives, people and periods. His writing is beautiful and precise, both dialogues, scenes, and the character portrayals are splendidly executed: subdued, thoughtful, loving, and full of melancholy.”
STAVANGER AFTENBLAD, 5/6 STARS (NORWAY)
“Christoffer Carlsson, who is one of our time’s most skilled crime writers, lets grief serve as an undertone throughout the novel. Life turns out the way it does, and you may not realize that you should have chosen differently until it’s too late. Perhaps even that you could have.”
lotta olsson, dagens nyheter (SWEDEN)
“In the novel Under the Storm [Carlsson] portrays how a murder and a fire at the edge of a village creates blame among close relatives and forever marks the people who remain. […] This is a singular suspense novel. Christoffer Carlsson places us tenderly in the countryside where he grew up, among meadows, forests, brooks, and waterfalls. […] Christoffer Carlsson is a nimble writer. With a light hand he navigates his tale onward through the eighty-eight short chapters and never loses pace. And in the end it leads to home.”
SVERIGES RADIO P4 HALLAND (SWEDEN)
“The best and most nail-biting novel of the spring starts off with a burning house, but it’s the ashes that make the novel and the ruins that are the most intriguing. […] There are uncertainties in the case that Christoffer Carlsson reveals with unwavering stylistic prowess, all the while directing focus inward, toward the shame, and the convicted man’s anguished relatives. It is an innovative approach, if not brilliant. Under the Storm is likely to scoop up a whole bunch of crime writing awards this year, and they will all be well-deserved.”
M Magasin (Sweden)
“Guilt, doubt, and mystery simmer beneath the surface. Police officer Vidar Jörgensson can’t let go of the old murder case. Carlsson delivers a well written and suggestively distinct prose, in short chapters, and with a strong sense of Nordic noir. A first-rate suspense novel.”
“Under the Storm will not leave anyone disappointed. […] Carlsson succeeds in telling this seemingly simple story in an incredibly suspenseful way – all the way through. The characters are of flesh and blood, with all the faults and flaws of actual people. […] A story incredibly well told.”
DAST MAGAZINE (SWEDEN)
“[Cristoffer Carlsson] portrays this milieu so well, and captures the intimacy between people, the prejudice that grows within that intimacy, and the inability to break free. He also puts crime, suspicion, kin, and victims in a bigger context, connected to timeless issues of nature and nurture. What makes a person a criminal? And what chance do you have if everyone, including yourself, predicts that you are destined to go down a criminal path.”
skånska dagbladet (SWEDEN)
“Under the Storm is a strong tale that grabs hold and moves you. Carlsson once again proves what a talented writer he is.”
UPSALA NYA TIDNING (SWEDEN)
“Christoffer Carlsson writes skillfully about how an arson affects the people in the area, and how a crime lives on far beyond its judicial aftermath.”
“Christoffer Carlsson’s Under the Storm is a multi-facetted suspense novel, rich in atmosphere.”
“There must be more than 24 hours to Christoffer Carlsson’s day. His new suspense novel is tremendously impressive with its subdued tone of underlying peril, and his musical sense of style. Deeply rooted in the local dialect and countryside of Halland, about a murder in 1994 that may be unsolved. An impressive plot with an unusually likable policeman at its centre.”
“The fundamental crime is society itself. Here as in Sjöwall/Wahlöö’s books. The living conditions under which we grow up, the prejudices we carry, the omens we see in others. Cause and effect. Under the Storm is above all a rural noir novel. The people from rural areas, those who never left, are portrayed intimately and tenderly with the same narrative pulse as the rendition of small town life.”
“Under the Storm is a splendid thriller with psychological depth, excellently plotted and a denouement that I did not see coming.”
Thrillers and More, 5/5 stars (Netherlands)
“[Carlsson’s] academic expertise provides a solid foundation for his thrillers, in which he thoroughly examines the impact of crime […] He has an unparalleled eye for atmosphere and detail. More than a whodunit, Under the Storm is a novel about the powerlessness, vulnerability, and conflict between two men whose lives have been entangled through murder. You don’t read Carlsson to figure out who the perpetrator us, but because you want to know the people who are trying to find out who did the deed.”
Focus Knack, 4/5 stars (netherlands)
“Under the Storm is one of the best books in the crime genre I’ve read, and it could just as well be categorized as a literary novel. It is both a melancholy and emphatic tale about a village in a depopulation area as it is a story about a murder.”