För han var redan dö
(Out of the Game)
by Eva Frantz
reviewed by Catherine Venner
För han var redan dö (Out of the Game) is the third novel in the successful Anna Glad series. However, it is also a self-contained stand-alone book.
Anna Glad is preparing to go on maternity leave with her first child. The upcoming birth does not prevent her from worrying more about her work than her health. She is a policewoman out of passion, who has worked her way up the ranks with a recent promotion to the position previously occupied by her now retired friend and mentor, Rolf.
We also encounter three other characters who tell the story from their perspectives: Jasper Jokela, Jan-Anders Rosbäck and Alison Lindberg. Jasper Jokela is a cycling fanatic who is using his position at the local authority to build a cycle route around the town, but who meets resistance when loner Börje refuses to move off his land to make way for the cycle lane. Jan-Anders, a reporter at the local newspaper, wants to interview Börje about his protest, but finds his house empty with signs of a struggle and alerts the police. Alison Lindberg is a successful American businesswoman married to a national ice hockey star, Samuel Lindberg. She has moved to his isolated island home off the shores of the town.
Meanwhile Anna is called out to a strange case, in which a mother finds a second baby in the pram with her own child after a shopping trip. The search for the mother becomes the police’s top priority until a large amount of blood and a receipt for nappies is found at Börje’s home. These seemingly unconnected incidents are fatally linked, and Anna and Jan-Anders work together to find Börje, who has a reputation of being an oddball and even a wife beater.
With prologues and epilogues to most of the chapters, the author skilfully weaves the tale of Börje’s youth, courtship, love rivalry and marriage into the reader’s consciousness. And the reader begins to doubt the town gossip, and comes to realise that Börje is hiding a dark secret. In these brief snippets, we also get to know a boy who is being held in a cellar with his pregnant mother.
Samuel is working hard to get his ice hockey career back on track, leaving Alison alone and isolated on the island. His brother, Levi, is her only source of support in Finland. She jumps at a chance to join her husband in a magazine spread about their home, but during the interview she discovers that he has a son.
All of these threads are part of the same web that starts to unravel from two ends: Samuel’s return and the imminent destruction of Börje’s home. Anna and Jan-Anders come to the conclusion that Börje is not alone. Meanwhile, Alison secretly accesses her husband’s email account and finds threatening messages sent to his son’s mother. The stories cross when Alison presents her findings to Anna.
After work Anna bumps into Jan-Anders, who has just found an old photo in the newspaper archives that gives a clue to Börje’s whereabouts. They decide to sail to a deserted island where they believe Samuel is holding his son, his former girlfriend and Börje hostage. However, Samuel has returned home to Alison who confronts him about the emails, and it becomes clear that it was actually Levi who has been threatening the mother and is now holding her captive.
Anna and Jan-Anders manage to release the hostages on the island, but the boat is too small to take them all back. So Anna remains on the mainland, where she goes into early labour.
As bulldozers start demolishing Börje’s house, they uncover a corpse in the garden. Börje, now dying in hospital from injuries sustained on the island, explains that the body is that of his wife’s former boyfriend. His wife killed him when he threatened her, and Börje hid the body.
This novel has plenty of interesting storylines and a variety of characters. At times, I felt that there was a little too much going on and a few too many timelines, but once the events started to merge, the payoff was both satisfactory and rewarding.
The characters are especially vivid and remained with me after finishing the book. Alison’s loneliness on the island is especially well drawn, and the thoughts of the locked-up little boy really draw the reader in and add a sense of suspense. Anna Glad is a sympathetic and relatable protagonist, who is driven to discover the truth but struggles to balance her work and private life.
This book would be well suited to fans of police procedurals with elements of noir. The backdrop of the rugged Finnish coast with its isolated islands also lends it an extra level of atmosphere.
För han var redan dö
Schildts & Söderströms (Finland), 2020, Sekwa Förlag (Sweden).
Foreign rights: Urtė Liepuoniūtė, Helsinki Literary Agency.
Eva Frantz debuted in 2016, with her Anna Glad series, the first two books of which have sold over 30,000 copies. För han var redan dö is the third novel in the series. Den Åttonde Tärnan (The Eighth Maiden), the second Anna Glad novel, won the Finnish Clue of the Year prize for best crime novel of 2019. She also writes children’s novels, including Hallonbacken (Raspberry Hill), to be published by Pushkin Press.