Bad Apples
PublisherPoint Blank
Date Published02 June 2022
 
 
ISBN-100861541987
ISBN-13978-0861541980
Formatpaperback
Pages352
Price£ 8.99

Bad Apples

by Will Dean

Journalist Tuva Moodyson returns to Garvick, finds a decapitated corpse in the woods and investigates some strange goings-on in the nearby town of Visberg.


Review

This is the latest in Will Dean’s series featuring the profoundly deaf reporter Tuva Moodyson, whose enthusiasm for investigation regularly gets her into trouble. The writer’s biog says he lives in the middle of a Swedish elk forest, so no doubt he is well qualified to talk about those essentials for Nordic noir, trees and angst, although this outing is set in autumn with that other essential – snow – yet to arrive.

Tuva’s patch includes the small settlement of Visberg, sited on a hill and accessible via a meandering slope through a dark menacing forest full of elk, with hunters keen to kill them. On her first trip Tuva stops when she hears a cry for help, and finds a body, decapitated with a chainsaw. Research establishes that this is not the first such incident.

Visberg turns out to be a very odd place, dominated by the rich Edlund family. The central park is full of apple trees and the fruit is left to rot, giving rise to a distinctive odour, and to the title of the book. Around the centre is a bizarre collection of shops, including one where two witch-like women make and sell carved wooden trolls dressed in odd bits of dead animals.

Tuva dons a mask to conceal her identity so she can experience the annual autumn celebration in Visberg known as Pan Night. In the misty evening she observes the locals, also masked, chanting biblical phrases, walking backwards and generally engaging in a bacchanalia, a sort of Halloween on LSD. During the festivities the missing head is discovered, prominently displayed.

All this is very spooky, and Tuva discovers that a surprising number of the residents of Visberg have dodgy history, so there are plenty of suspects for the crime.

Dean can be relied upon to create atmosphere, and where he takes the trouble to keep his invention within reasonable bounds he is capable of sustaining real emotional power. The story also benefits from the protagonist Tuva, a character complicated enough to be interesting: sexually liberated, deaf but refusing to ever portray this as a disability, and fearless when it comes to confronting danger.

Unfortunately, Dean throws in so much by way of false trails and spooky goings-on that I started to to wonder if there was any trope that had been overlooked. The culmination is the reveal of the person responsible for the death, which firstly seems to repeat a device familiar from a well-known film, and secondly seems to have no connection at all to the hints trailed in the book. Fans of Tuva will probably enjoy this, but I was left with the impression that the author has been taking liberties.

Reviewed 22 July 2022 by Chris Roberts