Playdate by Alex Dahl

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EXCERPT: My mind churns with the possibilities this scenario suggests. Someone watching us – for years perhaps. Planning. Someone studying every detail of my family’s routine. Waiting. Someone who hates us. Me. Someone who would do anything, absolutely anything, to get revenge. Someone who knew that when the day came, there would be absolutely nothing I could do to stop them.

I feel the past stirring in me, as if time were running on a loop and I will now be forced to go back there. There are things that if I said them would cost me everything I have left. Fredrik, Lyder, this home, my job, perhaps even my life. Any chance of getting Lucia back. But could it be, if Lucia was taken for revenge, that speaking up could prove to be the only way to find her? And we have to find her. I have always said I would give up anything, even my own life, to find my child. But would I? Would I really?

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Lucia Blix went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie. Later that evening, Lucia’s mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and kissed her little girl goodnight.

That was the last time she saw her daughter.

The next morning, when Lucia’s dad arrived to pick her up, the house was empty. No furniture, no family, no Lucia.

In Playdate, Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation. Who has taken their daughter, and why?

MY THOUGHTS: A novel idea, well executed, Playdate had me on the edge of my seat for the majority of the read. As with Dahl’s first book, The Boy at the Door, Playdate is an unsettling read. The characters are mercurial, the reader’s perception of them constantly being challenged and changing.

It is impossible to know who, if anyone, is telling the truth. Fragments of the truth, yes, but definitely not the whole truth. And as little truths were revealed, my sympathies shifted from one character to another to another. But by the end, the only people I felt any sympathy for were the two little girls, Lucia and Josie, and Selma’s father.

The story is narrated from five points of view – Elisa, Lucia’s mother; Lucia herself; the kidnapper; a prisoner; and Selma, a journalist who has her own unique way of unearthing stories and the truth. The role of the prisoner intrigued me, and it took me a while to figure it out. Selma was far cleverer than I.

Alex Dahl has written a taut and suspenseful psychological thriller that kept me slightly off balance for most of the read. But the epilogue…did we need it? Or is there more to come?

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#Playdate #NetGalley

We are all more than the sum total of what we show others, even our spouses and children. There are vast unseen spaces inside us that could be filled with anything at all…

The sun is always shining, whether (we can) see it or not.

THE AUTHOR: Half-American, half-Norwegian, Alex Dahl was born in Oslo. She graduated with a B.A. in Russian and German linguistics with international studies and went on to complete an M.A. in creative writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an M.S. in business management at Bath University. Alex has published short stories in the U.K. and the U.S. She is a serious Francophile and currently lives in both London and Sandefjord.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Head of Zeus via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Playdate by Alex Dahl for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

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EXCERPT: … once you catch sight of him, it’s the boy on the far left who grabs the viewer’s attention. He isn’t tall for his age. Not as developed as the other boys, in fact, and his clothes are scruffy and down at heel. But his eyes are piercing. He’s staring straight into the camera with an expressionless face, and it’s as though he’s the only one who hasn’t heard the joke.

Hess stares at him. Hair, cheekbones, nose, chin, lips. All the features that change so radically during adolescence. Hess recognizes him, yet at the same time he doesn’t; and it is only when he zooms in and covers the boy’s face so only his eyes are visible that he can see who it is. He can see it, but it is as impossible as it is obvious. When comprehension dawns, his first thought is that it’s too late to fight back.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: If you find one, he’s already found you.

A psychopath is terrorizing Copenhagen.

His calling card is a “chestnut man”—a handmade doll made of matchsticks and two chestnuts—which he leaves at each bloody crime scene.

Examining the dolls, forensics makes a shocking discovery—a fingerprint belonging to a young girl, a government minister’s daughter who had been kidnapped and murdered a year ago.

A tragic coincidence—or something more twisted?

To save innocent lives, a pair of detectives must put aside their differences to piece together the Chestnut Man’s gruesome clues.

Because it’s clear that the madman is on a mission that is far from over.

And no one is safe.

MY THOUGHTS: I once tried roasted chestnuts, and must say I didn’t like them. I did, however, like The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup.

I liked the friction between Hess and Thulin, the lead investigators on the case of a brutally murdered mother. Neither of them want to be on this case. Thulin feels like she is treading water in Homicide and desperately wants to transfer to NC3, on track to become the best cyber crime unit in Europe. Hess has blotted his copybook with Europol so he has been sent back to Copenhagen to cool his heels.

I didn’t like Hess at the outset, as anyone who read my updates could tell. But he kept surprising me. I made unflattering comments about his commitment to the case several times, and had to eat my words. Thulin seemed more committed, but didn’t have Hess’s flair for analytical and lateral thinking. Together they made a good, if somewhat resentful, team. And Thulin isn’t above denigrating Hess to Nylander, the very conservative head of major crimes division, in order to advance her own agenda.

This is a dark and twisty read. It is graphic and gruesome in parts. Typical Nordic noir. I had no idea who the murderer was nor, initially, the motivation. But when the motivation was revealed, it sent me off on completely the wrong track. Very clever writing Mr Sveistrup.

Several people have commented that The Chestnut Man read more like a play than a novel. I didn’t get that feeling, but I did sometimes feel that the writing was quite dispassionate and lacking in suspense. Don’t get me wrong, I liked this book a lot; it is intriguing but not, to me, particularly suspenseful.

There are some beautiful touches, like the wreath of chestnut men, and compelling characters, strong characters, but rather a lot of characters, almost too many.

Definitely a read I recommend, and an author I will follow.

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#TheChestnutMan

THE AUTHOR: Søren Sveistrup is an internationally acclaimed scriptwriter of the Danish television phenomenon The Killing which won various international awards and sold in more than a hundred countries. More recently, Sveistrup wrote the screenplay for Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman.

Sveistrup obtained a Master in Literature and in History from the University of Copenhagen and studied at the Danish Film School. He has won countless prizes, including an Emmy for Nikolaj and Julie and a BAFTA for The Killing.

DISCLOSURE: I read The Chestnut Man written by Soren Sveistrup, published by Penguin, for the Goodreads Mystery, Crime and Thriller group read. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com