Hey, #bookjunkies! I have a superb #guestpost from Torquil MacLeod, author of Malice in Malmö which I hope you’ll enjoy as much as me! First, a little about the author and this book!
About the Author
Torquil MacLeod was an advertising copywriter for 36 years. Born in Edinburgh, he now lives in Cumbria, with his wife, Susan. He came up with the idea for his Malmö detective, Inspector Anita Sundström, after the elder of his two sons moved to southern Sweden in 2000. MEET ME IN MALMÖ (originally planned as a film script) was published in hardback in 2010. There are now five MALMÖ MYSTERIES novels and a novella in the series.
The sixth Anita Sundström novel – MALICE IN MALMÖ – is out now.
Torquil has also brought out an historical crime ebook called SWEET SMELL OF MURDER.
He makes regular trips to Malmö and Skåne to visit his Swedish family and friends.
When a leading Malmö entrepreneur turns up bound and gagged in a city-centre cemetery, the Skåne County Police have no obvious clues as to who is behind the kidnap. More complications arise when a second leading business figure is snatched and Inspector Anita Sundström and her colleagues are under pressure not only to find the victim, but also catch the gang.
The team is then further stretched with the murder of a malicious investigative journalist who has ruined the lives of many prominent Swedes. Unlike the kidnap case, there is no shortage of suspects. Both investigations are far from straightforward, and Anita’s professional life is about to become more turbulent with her nemesis, Alice Zetterberg, waiting in the wings.
Warring companies… fallen celebrities… and an adversary from a past case reappears on the scene as Anita Sundström tries to find the truth in the sixth full-length Malmö Mystery.
IMPORTANCE OF PLACE – A few random thoughts by Torquil MacLeod
Crime writing comes in many forms and in different degrees, from cosy to hard-boiled. However, what most have in common is a sense of place, whether the crimes occur in the rolling countryside of rural England, bleak Scandinavian forests or the mean streets of urban America. As a reader of crime fiction, I enjoy those stories that make the most of the surroundings – where the location becomes as much a part of the story as the protagonists. They become an extra, vital character.
In my own writing, the environs are uppermost in my mind. I need to know where to set a particular scene, a real physical place. It was by being captivated by the Skåne region of the south of Sweden that gave me the idea for the Malmö Mysteries; as well as befriending a Swedish detective.
My first visit to Sweden, just before Christmas 2000 to visit our elder son, was not the most propitious. We’d barely survived a storm-tossed ferry crossing from Newcastle to Gothenburg, during which most of the passengers and a number of the crew were sick. We then took a cold, very slow train down the coast and ended up at midnight at a desolate, draughty Malmö Central Station. It was like a scene out of the Third Man. Our son then drove us over to the small coastal town of Simrishamn. He got lost on the way – he was fairly new to Sweden and wasn’t used to the dark country roads. We crawled into bed in the early hours of the morning and hoped that we hadn’t made a mistake in coming over.
The next morning, we awoke to a magical place. Crisp and frosty. Beautiful countryside dotted with apple orchards; atmospheric, single-storey farmhouses; and long, sandy beaches. We had a fantastic welcome and our love affair with Sweden began. So did the idea for stories – at that stage they were with films in mind. We started to make visits to Malmö, which is a wonderfully cosmopolitan city, becoming particularly so after the opening of the Öresund Bridge in 2000 connecting it to Copenhagen across the Sound (most of you will know it well from the Swedish/Danish thriller, The Bridge). Our son then moved to Malmö so our trips always included many hours wandering around the city and taking in its sights and sounds. When I turned one of the film treatments into a book, it was a natural place to set it. Also, my detective friend had worked in Malmö.
Now Malmö is central to the Anita Sundström stories. However, like many places in Sweden, it is at its best in the summer, when its magnificent parks come into their own. I’ve located Anita’s apartment next to the city’s biggest one, Pildammsparken. Whenever possible, I’ve tried to use real locations, real streets, real buildings and real pubs and restaurants. They are easier to write about if you’ve actually been there – and, hopefully, the descriptions are more convincing. I know some writers have written about places they have never or rarely visited. Conan Doyle didn’t know London well and used street atlases and the London Post Office Directory to move Sherlock Holmes around the capital. He made all sorts of mistakes. And HRH Keating didn’t visit India until ten years after he started writing his Bombay-based, Inspector Ghote novels. Of course, nowadays Google Earth makes that more possible and, I have to confess, I have used it on rare occasions.
Though Anita Sundström’s beat is in Malmö, I’ve enjoyed taking her out of the city into the Scanian countryside. And contrary to a lot of Scandinavian crime novels I’ve read, I’ve often shied away from the popular winter settings of snowbound locations and unforgiving landscapes. The deep south of Sweden doesn’t tend to get the harsh winters experienced by the rest of the country. Over the years, I’ve experienced pleasant, warm summers and Skåne looks at its best. It’s not as though crime goes on holiday during the summer months. I must admit, I was irked at some of the British Wallander adaptations as they seemed to have knocked the colour on scenic Skåne right back through some compulsion that every Swedish drama should be dark and brooding even if the sun is shining. I also feel sorry that the producers of The Bridge consciously didn’t want to show anything of pre-1940 Malmö, which precludes many of the city’s best buildings and most distinctive areas.
Of course, when you’re living permanently in the location that you’re using for your stories, you are aware of any changes. As a non-resident, I have to keep up with those changes on my visits to a city that’s almost reinvented itself in the last 20 years. For example, the aforementioned Central Station has been totally transformed and now boasts an airport-style concourse. The trains that came in from Copenhagen and Kastrup airport used to wind around the suburbs before reaching the city centre, as described in my first book, Meet me in Malmö. By the time I wrote the second book, the route had changed completely and ran more directly and underground. A couple of new stations were built and they’ve been incorporated into later books. When writing one book, I described a character sitting in the modern university building looking out towards the Turning Torso, the extraordinary twisting skyscraper. On my next visit to the city I realised that view no longer existed because other buildings had shot up in the meantime. A whole new cultural quarter has sprung up recently, completely transforming the skyline.
Another important factor with regard to visiting the locations where I want to set scenes is that the places actually help stimulate ideas; even create characters I hadn’t thought about. Or they send the story off in a different direction. So, as I begin writing the seventh Malmö Mystery novel, I’m flexible enough to acknowledge that my next scheduled visit to southern Sweden may well turn an existing idea on its head. But that is all part of the fun of writing crime fiction.
Oooooh – I just love this piece and sense of place is such a fascinating topic. Who else is now interested in travelling to Sweden? If, like me you haven’t the travel funds, why not check out this novel and escape through the pages!