Hunting Game is the first installment in Swedish author Helene Tursten’s brilliant new series featuring the strong, smart, and unforgettable Detective Inspector Embla Nyström.
Tursten is also the author of the celebrated Inspector Irene Huss series as well as the recent story collection, An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, which features Maud, an irascible 88-year-old Swedish woman with no family, no friends, and … no qualms about a little murder.
Hunting Game publishes later this month and will be available in bookstores everywhere. To set the stage for this exciting new crime series set in Sweden, an excerpt is posted below.
About the Book:
From a young age, 28-year-old Embla Nyström has been plagued by chronic nightmares and racing thoughts. Though she still develops unhealthy fixations and makes rash decisions from time to time, she has learned to channel most of her anxious energy into her position as Detective Inspector in the mobile unit in Gothenburg, Sweden, and into sports. A talented hunter and prize-winning Nordic welterweight, she is glad to be taking a vacation from her high-stress job to attend the annual moose hunt with her family and friends.
But when Embla arrives at her uncle’s cabin in rural Dalsland, she sees an unfamiliar face has joined the group: Peter, an enigmatic young divorcé. And she isn’t the only one to take notice. One longtime member of the hunt doesn’t welcome the presence of an outsider and is quick to point out that with Peter, the group’s number reaches thirteen, a bad omen for the week.
Sure enough, a string of unsettling incidents follow, culminating in the disappearance of two men from a neighboring group of hunters. Embla takes charge of the search, and they soon find one of the missing men floating facedown in the nearby lake, his arm tightly wedged between two rocks. Just what she needs on her vacation. With the help of local reinforcements, Embla delves into the dark pasts of her fellow hunters in search of a killer.
“Embla, still plagued by nightmares about losing her teenage best friend, is a sharp, willful, though emotionally vulnerable detective. Fans of the Huss novels in particular and Nordic noir in general will want to follow this series from its start.” –Booklist, Starred Review
After nine rock-hard rounds, the sweat was dripping from both combatants and their movements were noticeably slower. The boxer in the red-and-white top tried a few attacks against the opponent’s stomach but couldn’t make a solid hit. The boxer in blue and yellow immediately rallied and answered with a quick series of short jabs against the red-and-white’s leather helmet to the heated shouts of the spectators. A few of the hits landed solidly, and one made the opponent stagger. The match was even and the outcome uncertain.
When the gong sounded the referee blew the whistle, and the fighters went to their respective corners of the ring. They spit out mouth protectors, and the trainers gave them dry towels to wipe themselves with. Both drank some water but poured most of it over their faces to revive themselves.
The boxers were called up and stood on either side of the referee. He took their hands and held them along his sides until the three judges reported their scores. When he raised the victor’s arm toward the ceiling, an ear-splitting cheer broke out.
“Embla Nyström is the new Nordic light-welterweight champion!” a voice announced, barely audible over the audience’s ovations.
All the new gold medalist heard as she raised her arms toward the ceiling was the acclaim of the crowd. In the rush of victory, she felt neither fatigue nor pain. Smiling happily, she stood in the middle of the ring and let the cheers wash over her.
After a glance at her face, the trainer started carefully guiding Embla in the direction of the locker room. She was bleeding above one eye and had to wipe blood away several times with the towel. It didn’t bother her in the least; she was radiantly happy.
The secretary slipped quietly through the doorway with a small tray in her hands and set it down discreetly on the antique mahogany desk. Beside it she placed the day’s mail in a neat pile before slipping out again. Anders von Beehn nodded curtly in thanks and continued his phone call.
For a long time he listened to the voice from the other side of the Atlantic. Finally he stretched in his chair and said, “Yes, I’m looking forward to seeing you in New York, too. Bye.”
When he hung up his smile faded. Doing business with Americans was quite different than it was with Europeans. Yankees may sound easygoing, but he knew not to let himself relax. After many years at the top of the Swedish business world he was no fledgling and felt rather certain that he would succeed in pulling off the deal. In just a few more months, Scandinvest would be at the top of the list of Sweden’s most successful family-owned companies.
A few days off during moose-hunting season felt well deserved; he had been working hard on this cooperation agreement. The low-key trip to the hunting cabin was just what he needed to wind down and get a fresh burst of energy before the final negotiations.
He always opened his personal mail after morning coffee, and a small padded envelope caught his attention. He picked it up and assessed its weight in his hand. He squeezed it carefully. Hard and lumpy. How strange.
He set it down gently on the desk and pressed the intercom. “Was the padded envelope X-rayed?” he asked.
“Yes. It’s a key chain.”
Anders von Beehn slit open the envelope and peeked inside. He reached in and fished out a key ring with no keys. He recognized the BMW logo inside the plastic ring at once.
He sat there a long time, looking at the key ring. What was the meaning? Advertising? A joke? He had a hard time seeing what was funny. Over the years he’d had several BMWs. And a lot of other makes, too, for that matter. Right now the family owned four cars, one of which was actually a new BMW, which his wife, Linda, drove.
When he turned the envelope upside down and shook it, a slip of paper came floating out and settled on the shiny desktop. He read it several times without understanding a thing.
I remember. M.
M? He noted that the text on both the note and the envelope was printed, not handwritten.
Who was M? Suddenly he felt the coffee churning in his stomach. M. That wasn’t possible, was it? Was someone trying to mess with him? Trying to scare him? Who knew about M? Jan-Eric, naturally. But he would never do anything like this. He had never even wanted to talk about it. No, not Jan-Eric. Who? Ola. But Ola was dead.
The automatic gates slowly closed behind the heavy motorcycle. The driver braked with the engine on idle. He unlocked the mailbox on the inside of the wall and emptied it. He stuffed the letters inside his motorcycle jacket before he stepped on the gas and continued down the lane with its newly planted trees.
Whistling, he unlocked the door that led into the house from the garage. Purposefully he guided his steps toward the kitchen. Or rather the refrigerator. Sitting with a couple of beers in the warm Jacuzzi was part of his usual evening routine. If he had the energy he would also swim a few laps in the big pool. Nowadays his body got stiff after a longer motorcycle ride. You’re starting to feel that you’ll be turning fifty in a few months, he thought, grimacing at his reflection in the glass door to the patio. Money can take care of many things, but the passage of time can’t be stopped. He carefully drew his hand across his thinning hair.
No, he wasn’t going to get gloomy now. It was Friday evening, tomorrow he would pack for the moose hunt and later in the afternoon drive to Dalsland. He was truly looking forward to Saturday’s traditional hunting dinner.
He tossed the mail on one of the gleaming stone counters. He opened the brushed-steel refrigerator, took out a can of Czech beer, and opened it. As always just hearing the fizzing sound filled him with pleasure.
He opened the patio door wide and went out onto the large deck. With a deep breath he drew the fresh autumn air into his lungs. When he went in to get another beer his eyes fell on the letters. Might as well open them before he got into the Jacuzzi along with a few more beers.
From the magnetic holder over the stove he took down a sharp Japanese steel knife and quickly slit open all the envelopes. One of them gave him pause. It was a small, square, padded envelope. His name was printed on a label: Jan-Eric Cahneborg. He turned the envelope over, but there was no return address.
Puzzled, he pulled out a thin, black piece of fabric that was inside. It took a few seconds before he realized what it was. A bandanna? He peeked into the envelope to see if it contained anything else. At the bottom he glimpsed a small slip of paper. With some difficulty he managed to coax it out. The text was printed out from a computer.
I remember. M.
Jan-Eric Cahneborg gasped. His facial color changed to a sickly grayish white, and he had to support himself against the granite counter.