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Dark Secrets    by Michael Hjorth & Hans Rosenfeldt order for
Dark Secrets
by Michael Hjorth
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2013 (2013)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's another in a recent steady stream of brilliant new Scandinavian series, Dark Secrets by Michael Hjorth and Hans Rosenfeldt. The case at the heart of the mystery is that of a missing teenager, young Roger Eriksson in Vasteras, Sweden. Eventually his body is found and the elite Riksmord team, the national homicide unit led by Torkel Hoglund, is called in to investigate.

The lead is very much an antihero. He is psychologist and profiler Sebastian Bergman, whose life has come undone since the death of his wife and child in the 2004 tsunami. He has stopped working. And, after being faithful to his wife throughout their marriage, he has gone back to his earlier habits as a serial womanizer, almost a sexual predator.

The arrogant and obnoxious Bergman has returned to Vasteras to sell his mother's house after her death - alienated, they had not seen each other in many years. Amongst her possessions he finds letters that show that one of his casual flings resulted in a child. Soon he asks to join old friend Torkel Hoglund's team; he wants to use police resources to track down that child.

Police learn that Roger Eriksson was bullied so badly that he switched to a private prep school, the same one that was founded by Bergman's father; the profiler disliked everything about it and the team soon finds evidence of all kinds of criminal activity associated with Palmlovska High - but is any of it a motive for murder?

An ambitious police officer, Inspector Thomas Haraldsson, provides comic relief throughout as he stumbles from one foolish move to another. In between he has sex dates with his wife (who is following a careful schedule to maximize their chances to conceive a child). And all the members of the Riksmord team are quirky, intriguing characters with spirited and complex interactions amongst them.

Though eminently unlikeable, Sebastian Bergman does turn out to be extremely talented. And though he's not terribly interested in the murder case - and muddies the water considerably by sleeping with women associated with it - he does manage to steer it in the right direction, one that ultimately leads to a resolution.

Dark Secrets has a most unusual ('not a murderer') serial killer and an extraordinary ending. Along the way, I enjoyed Torkel's thoughtful musings, such as: 'The press simplified complex situations, wallowed in tragedy, and created nothing but fear and suspicion among the public.' This is a series I plan to follow.

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