DARK PINES by Will Dean
Point Blank Books; 1/4/18 (UK)
CBTB Rating: 4/5
The Verdict: Sparse, stylish, chilling crime fiction
If I could move anywhere in the world, I would pack my bags and head to Scandinavia. When I learned of crime writer Will Dean, a former Londoner who did exactly that - moved to rural Sweden with his family - I knew this was an author whose debut novel I had to read. Dean’s forthcoming crime novel DARK PINES is a stylish blend of Nordic atmosphere, small-town life, and dark, chilling crimes - an excellent addition to your winter reading list. Readers of Crime by the Book will know that Nordic crime fiction is above and beyond my favorite, and I was fascinated to see if - and how - Dean’s style of crime fiction set in Scandinavia might differ from the work of the Scandinavian crime writers I know and love. DARK PINES certainly has a style and voice all its own, but Nordic Noir readers will nevertheless feel at home in the dark corners and chilling atmosphere of Dean’s thriller. DARK PINES is a compelling glimpse into small-town life, and a cleverly constructed maze of a thriller.
SEE NO EVIL
Eyes missing, two bodies lie deep in the forest near a small Swedish town.
HEAR NO EVIL
Tuva Moodyson, a deaf reporter on a small-time local paper, is looking for the story that could make her career.
SPEAK NO EVIL
A web of secrets. And an unsolved murder from twenty years ago.
Can Tuva outwit the killer before she becomes the final victim? She'd like to think so. But first she must face her demons and venture far into the deep, dark woods if she wants to stand any chance of getting the hell out of small-time Gavrik.
Above and beyond the many elements that drew my attention to DARK PINES (the gorgeous cover and compelling plot, to name a couple!) the quality that drew me to this book most of all was the unique background of its author, and the unique “outsider” perspective that he has as a transplant to Scandinavia by way of London. Like Dean himself, the protagonist of this story is also a newcomer to Scandinavia: Tuva, a young female journalist, has come to Sweden to care for her aging mother, and now finds herself essentially alone (her mother is in the hospital), trying to find her own place and make her own mark on the town. I was fascinated by the tensions and challenges Tuva faces in her continued efforts to ingratiate herself with the town’s residents, and loved the idea of following a main character who is as much an outsider to the inner workings of the town as the reader is.
As Tuva begins to investigate the brutal murder that launches DARK PINES, she must unravel the various alliances and relationships that tie the town’s social structure together - and in the process, she uncovers dark secrets about this small town and its residents. Adding to the complexity of Tuva’s experience is the fact that she is deaf; I loved that Dean has taken the time to thoughtfully portray this element of Tuva’s life. I have read a lot of crime fiction, and I haven't often seen this diversity of character represented. My reading experience was made all the richer by this added element to Tuva's character. Tuva is complicated without being cliched, and relatable without being stereotypical - she’s about as far from a cookie-cutter main character as you can get, and I mean that in the best possible sense. I enjoyed every moment spent getting to know her, and I wholly admire Dean for taking the time to develop such a unique and authentic main character.
After reading DARK PINES, I can only imagine that Dean’s writing is deeply inspired by the natural beauty of the part of Sweden that he himself calls home. True to its title, DARK PINES plays out against the backdrop of a massive, dense forest - and the backdrop to this story turns out to be just as chilling and compelling as the crimes portrayed against it. Dean’s descriptions of this landscape are immersive and engaging, and I found myself hanging on his every word as he described the beauty - and dangers - of this vast forest. The forest itself is, in fact, so central to the story that it begins to feel like a character unto itself. Throughout DARK PINES, Tuva must negotiate her relationship with the forest: she finds herself called back to the forest again and again in pursuit of the truth surrounding the story’s central crime, and yet she is also continuously engaged in an inner battle with her own fears about the unpredictability and volatility of this piece of land. Tuva knows that what she can’t see in the forest can hurt her - and this proves to be even more true than she could ever imagine.
My experience reading DARK PINES was wholly an excellent one, but this book really kicked in for me around page 100. Don’t get me wrong: the first 100 pages were absorbing and compelling, but I would encourage readers to have patience - if the first 100 pages seem on the slower side, there is much more to come in this thriller. That something special that makes a read go from “good” to “great” happened for me around page 100, when the story seemed to ratchet up in intensity and pacing. As Dean hits his stride with his debut novel, the reader will find DARK PINES utterly addictive and just plain fun to read. DARK PINES is a slower-burning mystery throughout, but the story becomes increasingly tense with each page that the reader turns, and I found myself glued to the pages as it developed. Readers looking for a stylish, immersive, and chilling thriller will love DARK PINES, and debut author Will Dean has proven himself a name to watch in the crime fiction space.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.
*Note: DARK PINES is currently slated for release in the UK on 1/4/18 - the below is UK publication information. American readers - you can always find this book on BookDepository, or stay tuned for more information!
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Point Blank (4 Jan. 2018)