Inevitably, Camilla Ceder's debut novel Frozen Moment has led the marketing department at publisher Weidenfeld & Nicholson to draw comparisons with the famous names of Nordic fiction. "Move over Wallander", declares the back cover of the advance reader copy.
As good as this debut is - and it is very good, and full of promise for what is set to be the beginning of a series featuring Swedish detective Christian Tell - it's important to maintain a sense of perspective. Ceder has a long way to go before she will earn a place in the pantheon of Scandinavian crime fiction champions where Henning Mankell, the late Stieg Larsson and a very select number of others - Jo Nesbo perhaps - currently reside.
What she shares with these notables, and others such as Camilla Lackberg and KO Dahl, is a strong sense of place, excellent plotting and credible characterisation. If anything defines the extraordinary and apparently relentless rise of Scandinavian fiction, for me it is these three qualities, and in particular the plotting.
It would be easy to draw cheap stereotypical conclusions about ordered minds and ordered societies producing writers with organized minds who produce impeccably plotted and well executed novels. Cheap maybe, but the more Scandinavian fiction I read the more I am drawn to this idea.
Frozen Moment knits together two plot threads. In the present day, in western Sweden close to the city of Gothenburg, a small business owner is found dead outside his workshop. His killer had taken no chances, first shooting and then running over the victim. Despite a plethora of potential culprits the initial investigation of Christian Tell and his colleagues unearths no plausible suspect, little evidence and no obvious motive. The investigation stalls until a second victim is killed in the same way.
Tell's investigation dominates the narrative, but the book also casts back a decade to the troubled teenage years of May Granith, a Gothenburg girl who removes herself from a troubled home life and moves away to college to rebuild her life. Her story is told in a series of vignettes that offer glimpses of her life but no real indication as to how her story ties in with Tell's investigation.
The story is handled well by Ceder, who has the courage to hint towards the link - and therefore the likely identity of Tell's quarry - well before the conclusion of the novel, but then manages to maintain the tension in the dying pages of the book. The atmosphere of a cold Scandinavian winter is well drawn and provides a bleak backdrop.
In the meantime, as one might expect at the beginning of a series, she begins carefully drawing out her characters. Tell is something of a loner - a cliche in crime fiction terms - but has sensitivity and sufficient self-awareness to understand that. It makes him a surprisingly sensitive and inclusive boss but he shows less ability to free himself from a lonely and dour personal life.
Tell is surrounded by an interesting, if somewhat recognisable, team who Ceder devotes some time to: the workaholic senior female officer; the gnarled old school copy; the ambitious young pretender. Again, if these are somewhat stereotypical, the detail is skilfully applied and it doesn't feel cliched.
Frozen Moment is a fine police procedural that will only enahnce the already burgneoning reputation of Swedish crime fiction. And when Christian Tell does reappear I will be very happy to see him again.