As much as I loved reading KILLER DEAL, I loved reading its author's Q&A responses maybe even more. Sofie Sarenbrant is such a thoughtful, inspiring woman, and our conversation perfectly reflects that. KILLER DEAL is a fresh, engaging Scandinavian crime read—instead of a harried male protagonist, our main character is a motivated, career-oriented young police inspector; instead of a focus on investigative details, the story builds upon its central characters. Sofie's main character Emma struggles with issues facing women in the workforce worldwide, ranging from misogyny to the balancing act between motherhood and career. Sofie's Emma Sköld series is already wildly popular in Sweden, and it hits the US this spring! Read on for a synopsis of KILLER DEAL, and my conversation with this new voice on the Scandinavian crime fiction scene.
KILLER DEAL Synopsis (source: Amazon):
The morning after an open-house showing in a posh Stockholm suburb, a father is found dead by his six-year-old daughter Astrid. There are no signs of a break-in, and the murder weapon is one of the family's own kitchen knives. The only hint that someone from the outside might be involved is that Astrid claims a strange man stroked her cheek during the night.
Police Inspector Emma Sköld takes up the case. She suspects that the man's wife could be the culprit, but when more murders occur tied to open-house showings, her theory is turned on its head. What's the truth behind the events in the ostensibly idyllic and prosperous residential area? And what is the connection between the victims?
Q&A: CBTB x Sofie Sarenbrant
Crime by the Book: KILLER DEAL is your first book to be translated into English, and we American readers are totally new to your Emma Sköld series. In your own words, could you give us a brief introduction to Emma and your books?
Sofie Sarenbrant: Instead of a worn-out, alcoholic chief inspector in the lead role, I wanted a young, career-oriented woman of my own age. Emma Sköld follows her father’s footsteps, without his blessing. He thinks there are too many risks in the duty of a police, and it will turn out that he’s right. Emma faces prejudices in her job as a homicide investigator, because she is young and good looking. No one expects that she will be the most competent of them all and dares to question what no one else will. The problem is that Emma Sköld is a little too smart for her own good, which will strike back at her when she starts digging in an investigation that is already considered solved.
CBTB: The plot of KILLER DEAL is deliciously creepy because it all starts with a very ordinary, every-day activity that goes horribly wrong: a couple is in the market for a new home and they attend an open house, where they make a gruesome discovery. I found this plot extra scary because it could happen to anyone, at any time! I believe I read that you were inspired by a similar experience that you had. Could you share where you got your inspiration for this story?
Sofie: It all started when we were going to buy a house and I went to an open house in Bromma. As soon as I entered, I had a sense that something wasn’t right. There were dents on doors and walls, and I could smell alcohol in the study. There were also fewer prospective buyers than normal for such a popular neighborhood. The real estate agent wasn’t around when I left, so I never said good-bye. An absurd thought struck me: How would she know if everyone had really left? Anyone at all could slip in through the basement door and hide until the open house was over and the family came home. After that, I couldn’t let go of the idea of what an exciting mystery plot that might make.
CBTB: Your story has a great balance of interpersonal relationships and police work; it’s a kind of police procedural-lite, mixed with a healthy dose of relationship drama that keeps the reader emotionally invested. What kind of research went into the police work depicted in your story? How did you balance the police aspect of the story with the character development in your story?
Sofie: Thank you! I always do a thorough research, because it’s important for me that the police work is credible. I interviewed two Detective Inspectors who work at the same section as Emma Sköld and they fact-checked the novel. I have bored them with thousands of questions, but they still smile when we meet! They are really proud and excited to be a part of my novels and I’m so grateful.
CBTB: One of my favorite pieces of this story is that you depict a very career-oriented, up-and-coming police officer (Emma), who finds out that she is pregnant, and has to begin juggling the demands of pregnancy with her career. I’m sure that many women can relate to this juggling act – whether they are mothers themselves, or are young women who someday want to have a family and a career, the question of how to balance motherhood and a career is a reality for many, many women around the world. What inspired you to write a main character who is dealing with finding this balance?
Sofie: Myself actually, because I have always ranked my career very high. I wanted to work with something that I loved more than anything else. And as a woman I had to defend myself sometimes because of that attitude. I have been struggling with a feeling that maybe it isn’t possible to be a good mother and have a job that you are passionate about, maybe you have to make a choice. And for Emma it’s more difficult than for me, because she has a risky job. For me it was easier, even if I thought it was a huge step to decide that I wanted to have kids when I was 25 years old. But my mother always told me that I shouldn’t think like that, of course it’s possible to do what you want and also be a mum. And she was right!
CBTB: How do you plan your novels? (Do you use an outline? Do you plan out the whole story beforehand, or let it develop as you write?)
Sofie: I make an outline that I follow like the Bible. I spend like two months at the running track, trying to create a good plot (yes, at the same time as I’m running). I can’t do that just sitting in front of my computer. As soon as the story is starting to grow, I sit down. Then I write about every single chapter and what character that will be involved, what scene it is and what is coming next. I "write" my whole plot in my head, and then in short-chapters before I begin to write for real. So yes, everything is set beforehand, but it doesn’t mean that I might not have to modify my plan. Actually I do all the time, which is so frustrating. And inspiring. Every day is a challenge and I never stop to questioning myself: What can I do better? You can always develop everything, which means that I will keep doing this forever. Good for me :-)
CBTB: What book are you currently reading?
Sofie: I’m reading several books at the same time, even when I’m writing my own books. I love reading (or I’m sick, I don’t know) … Right now I have just started to read Carina Bergfeldt’s "Seven Days to Live", about capital punishment.
CBTB: I’m going to be recommending KILLER DEAL as the perfect crime fiction beach read this summer. It’s fast-paced, engaging, addictive, and has a killer ending! When can US readers expect to learn what happens to Emma after the revelation at the end of KILLER DEAL?
Sofie: I am so happy about that, thank you! I hope US readers will like KILLER DEAL as much as you do, and of course I hope that the next book will be released next year! I will keep you updated :-)
A huge thank you to Sofie for taking the time to chat with me, and to her publicist for setting this up! It was an absolute pleasure. Order Sofie's US debut on Amazon!