Q&A: Camilla Grebe, Author of AFTER SHE’S GONE
It’s such a pleasure to welcome crime writer Camilla Grebe to CBTB today to discuss her brand-new mystery, AFTER SHE’S GONE, which went on sale earlier this week! AFTER SHE’S GONE is a smart, timely piece of Scandinavian crime fiction - a story both entertaining and thought-provoking. In AFTER SHE’S GONE, a woman is found badly injured, wandering out of the local woods… with no memory of what has just happened to her, or where her partner - the man she has been traveling with - might be. That woman turns out to be a criminal psychologist who has been working with local police to solve a decade-old cold case. What happened to this woman? What secrets did she uncover during her investigation? And where is her partner? Readers will be engrossed in Camilla Grebe’s chilling new slice of Nordic Noir.
I was thrilled to have the chance to ask Camilla a few of my most pressing questions about AFTER SHE’S GONE, and am equally excited to share our conversation with CBTB readers today! In today’s blog post, you can find plot details on Camilla’s newest release, and a behind-the-scenes peek into this compelling crime read. Many thanks to Camilla for taking the time to answer my questions, and to her publisher for facilitating this Q&A!
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AFTER SHE’S GONE by Camilla Grebe
Named the Best Nordic Crime Novel of the Year by the Crime Writers of Scandinavia
Out of the frozen depths of a forest in Ormberg, Sweden, a woman stumbles onto the road. Her arms are covered with scratches, her feet are bare, and she has no memory of who she is. Local police identify her as psychological profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schön, who, with her partner, had been helping investigate the cold case of a young woman’s murder. Hanne begins to recover but cannot recall anything about where her partner is, or what their investigation had uncovered before her disappearance. Police have only one lead: a young woman in a sequined dress who was spotted nearby the night Hanne was found.
The young woman doesn’t come forward because she doesn’t exist: Jake Birgersson, a local teenager, had been out walking in his mother’s dress and sister’s makeup, his secret shame and thrill. Terrified of discovery, Jake hid and watched Hanne get into a car, leaving behind her diary.
Reading Hanne’s notebook, Jake realizes that it contains the key to a major breakthrough in the case—but turning it in would mean admitting the truth about who he is. When another murder victim is found in the woods, Jake realizes that Hanne herself is in danger, and his only choice is to find and warn her so that together, they can stop the killer before he strikes again.
“This atmospheric mystery is masterfully constructed. . . . Nordic noir at its best.”—Booklist (starred review)
“[A] stellar crime novel . . . Grebe delivers an unflinching, heart-wrenching message about the plight of refugees in this scorching thriller.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Author Q&A: Camilla Grebe
AFTER SHE’S GONE
Crime by the Book: First things first - thank you so much for stopping by Crime by the Book to tell us about your new book, After She’s Gone! I'm thrilled to share this Q&A with CBTB readers. In your own words, could you give us a quick rundown of what your newest book is about?
Camilla Grebe: After She’s Gone is about criminal profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schön, who suffers from early onset dementia. She and her partner, investigator Peter Lindgren, travel to the small, sleepy industrial town of Ormberg, where a refugee camp has been set up. They investigate a cold case: ten years earlier a five-year-old girl's remains were found in a cairn near the town. But Hanne’s dementia starts creeping back again, so she keeps a diary noting down everything she is likely to forget. Then one stormy evening, Hanne is found wandering around the woods of Ormberg – lost, hurt and confused – and Peter is missing. Hanne has no recollection whatsoever of the events that evening, but her diary is found by a local teenage boy, Jake, who starts his own investigation of the case.
CBTB: What inspired you to write this book? Can you identify one particular moment when the idea for this story popped into your head, or did it develop over time?
CG: The twist in the very end came to me first, and then I constructed the rest of the book – the story, the characters and the (fictional) town of Ormberg around it.
CBTB: How does this book connect to your previous novel, The Ice Beneath Her? Can it be read as a standalone?
CG: You can absolutely read it as a standalone! But if you have read The Ice Beneath Her, you will recognize some of the characters. I used to write series, but I found that a bit boring, so in a way this is a bit of a compromise – the books are standalone novels, but you meet familiar faces in them.
CBTB: Central to this story is the character of Hanne, a psychological profiler. How would you describe Hanne to someone meeting her for the first time?
CG: Hanne is confident, competent and experienced. She’s just turned sixty and knows what she wants. But dementia is slowly taking all away from her. Who are you when you don’t have any memories anymore? What are you? On the other hand, you have the young teenager, Jake, who finds Hanne’s diary. He likes to dress up in women’s clothes, a fiercely guarded secret. So, there are a lot of identity issues being addressed in the book.
CBTB: As previously mentioned, this is the second time readers will encounter Hanne and her partner, Peter, in one of your books. What interested you about these two so much that you wanted to continue writing about them in After She's Gone?
CG: When I wrote The Ice Beneath Her, I really fell in love with Hanne. I think she’s such un unusual character in a crime novel. Also, the fact that she’s suffering from dementia opens up many interesting possibilities as a crime writer. If you can’t trust yourself, then who can you trust?
“I hope readers will recognize Ormberg – the ambience, the fear and the way people think and behave – and ask themselves the questions: Could this happen in my hometown? Could this happen to me and my family?” - Camilla Grebe
CBTB: After She’s Gone is, in many ways, a particularly timely and resonant story. Can you share a little bit about the themes or topics you wished to explore in this story? Why were they particularly important to you?
CG: After She’s Gone is a murder story, but it’s also a tale of fear and hate. I wanted to write a book that said something about the society we live in today as well as being a captivating crime novel. In Sweden, and in many other countries, there’s a heated debate about immigration, and it seems to me that we sometimes forget that we are actually talking about human beings. We lock our borders, build walls, put refugees in camps and the internet is full of hate. That really, really scares me. I wanted to write about the mechanisms behind all this hate. How fear creates hate.
CBTB: When After She’s Gone opens, readers are drawn immediately into a fascinating locale: a small town in Sweden, on the edge of a dark forest. Beyond the rich atmosphere of this setting, I was particularly interested in the way you explore this town's culture and social dynamics. Is this town based on personal experience? And what do you hope readers take away from the culture you explore here?
CG: Ormberg is a fictional town, but places like it exists all over Sweden and in many other countries. I didn’t want to pinpoint a specific town, since Ormberg is not necessarily a nice place. But in many ways the area resembles the place in rural Sweden where I spent my childhood summers. I hope readers will recognize Ormberg – the ambience, the fear and the way people think and behave – and ask themselves the questions: Could this happen in my hometown? Could this happen to me and my family?
CBTB: What does your writing process look like? For example, do you write from a detailed outline, or do you prefer to just begin writing and see where the story takes you?
CG: Oh, the writing process... It always starts out in a very structured manner for me. There’s an outline, a detailed back-story of every character, a time-line and so forth. But then, inevitably, chaos sets in and the process becomes very organic. Characters do things I never planned. Places turn out differently. All my notes become disorganized and I lie sleepless for long periods. But the overall plot remains basically the same.
CBTB: When you’re not writing crime fiction, do you also enjoy reading crime fiction? If so, could you share with us a few crime books you’ve recently read and loved?
CG: I read A LOT of crime novels! I think it makes me a better writer and I try to keep updated on new releases. One of my favorite writers is British author Belinda Bauer. I love everything she’s written. I also really like Gillian Flynn and Irish novelist Liz Nugent.
CBTB: What are you working on next?
CG: I’m working on the fourth novel in this series (for lack of a better word, it’s not really a series). It’s a story of a serial killer who commits a number of murders over a very long period of time. We meet three policewomen who investigate the crimes during the 70’s, 80’s and in the present. I was inspired by Michelle McNamara’s true crime book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which is about the Golden State killer. Using three female investigators during different time periods is very interesting, because I can zoom in on interesting subjects such as equality (or the lack thereof) and how crimes like this affect people and communities for generations.
Many thanks to Camilla for taking the time to answer my questions, and to her publisher for facilitating this Q&A! AFTER SHE’S GONE is on sale now.
Series: Hanne Lagerlind-Schon (Book 2)
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (February 26, 2019)
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