The Killer’s Art, by Mari Jungstedt

by Peter

Swedish crime fiction writer Mari Jungstedt keeps getting better and better. This is her fourth book translated into English, after Unseen, Unspoken and Unknown (A Killer’s Art is now also available in the US). The translation by Tiina Nunnally is excellent.

Mari Jungstedt’s books are all set on the scenic tourist island of Gotland in Sweden, and the all feature the sleuthing duo Inspector Anders Knutas and Swedish news reporter Johan Berg. They are all quite good, but to my mind this book is the best to date.

The action in A Killer’s Art starts with The Killer's Art, by Mari Jungstedtthe murder of a very well-known local art-gallery owner, Egon Wallin. Egon was a prominent and visible man in the local community, and well respected locally as well as in the art world. And now he is found brutally murdered and hanging from the medieval town gate in the beautiful and quiet little town of Visby.

As Knutas and his colleagues start digging into the case dark secrets and unknown facts start to surface. The gallery owner, who has just opened a new, very interesting exhibition featuring a young Lithuanian artist, had sold his gallery without anyone knowing it, not even his wife. Both he and his wife secretly had lovers, each without the other knowing about it. Also, his wife, going through the house after her husband’s death, found a number of extremely valuable paintings hidden there. Further investigation showed that they had all been stolen from various Swedish owners over the last few years.

Killer's Art Mari JungstedtThen, while Knutas and his colleagues are still more or less completely in the dark, struggling to make sense of the case and not finding anything that seems to lead them in the direction of the killer, a new killing takes place. A man is reported missing from the local hotel and the police feel certain that he has been or will be killed. When he is finally found, his is lying half-naked on the snowy grave of the first victim, badly mutilated and seemingly tortured. Time is running out for the police.

We touch base, of course, with the private lives of both Knutas and Johan Berg as well. And especially with the somewhat complicated relationship between Berg and his beloved Emma, which at least for a while in this book seems to change for the better. However, that changes when their little daughter becomes a target and is kidnapped – Emma hurls his engagement ring across the room.

This is a very enjoyable book, excellently written, very clear and at times elegant. Also, it is a book that will perhaps be of particular interest to art lovers, as it moves in the world of art in Sweden, and features a number of interesting paintings and artists such as “The Dying Dandy” by the Swedish impressionist Nils Dardel along with several paintings by Zorn.

I loved this book. The main characters are well-drawn and well-known at this point in the series and seemed very alive to me. Some of the scenes and elements of the plot are wonderful, for instance a James Bond-like art theft in Stockholm that was brilliantly executed and very memorable. I read A Killer’s Art very fast, as I found it hard to put down. It is very suspenseful and intriguing, and I highly recommend it.

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