The Fifth Season by Mons Kellentoft
(Amazing cover #ThatCover)
It’s early May when a young family out on a forest walk stumble upon a heavily mutliated body. The female corpse is in eerily good condition, and signs of torture are all too visible.
Inspector Malin Fors immediately draws parallels between this case and that of Maria Murvall, the young woman who was found raped and brutally beaten in the forest several years ago. Maria has been living as a mute in the local psychiatric hospital ever since the attack, and Malin is haunted by her inability to help her.
In the course of her investigation, Malin meets with a psychologist who tells her about another similar case, and suddenly Maria appears to be a small piece of a much bigger puzzle. But what is it that is so terrible it can’t be put into words?
Malin is determined to find out the truth, no matter where it might take her.
I am a huge fan of the writer Sarah Ward and her reviews on her blog Crime Pieces. Recently in a bookshop I stumbled across this novel and saw a quote from Sarah Ward on the inside cover. So I instantly bought the novel. Oh my, was I in for one hell of a read!
The novel opens in early December 2010 and we are drawn straight into the emotional and physical pain of the victim. Maria Murvall, a recent victim now resides at the Vadstena hospital, she is mute due to the significant torture inflicted upon her. But whom, would wish to brutalise a woman so badly……
Malin Fors is the detective inspector working on Maria’s case in her spare time. With no forensics and a prosecutor desperate to drop the case, Malin is determined to have justice for the young mute victim. There is background into Malin’s personal life and her characterisation is very intriguing. A self-confessed sober alcoholic, who develops confusing relationships with those around her. Whilst away at a family retreat her sister-in-law Sara informs her of a similar victim, found beaten, raped and mute at Lund. Malin begins to put the pieces together.
The patient at St Lars, Lund, is a nameless victim, currently so traumatised she can no longer even feed herself and has become incontinent.
Malin is vows to give the nameless women their names back….
When Malin does further investigation, she discovers political victim blaming within each of the cases. Who speaks for these victims when they can no longer speak for themselves and the justice system has abandoned them? Who would inflict such savage vaginal injuries on themselves and why? The politics of sex crimes, makes for distressing reading. Why are women so badly abused and cast aside?
There are many police divisions involved in the various cases that are linked to Maria’s assault and then ‘woman X’ is found dead. A 20 year old, sex trafficking victim that the world simply forgot existed. Local sex offenders are sought and DNA evidence gathered. The only substantial link between all the victims is a hunting lodge frequented by a who’s who of the justice system. Is this a serial perpetrator? Is this a lone perpetrator? When it comes to the victims there are themes of immigration, refugee status, prostitution and exploitation. The preconceptions the police and justice system hold on people from these walks of life, is fully explored.
Woman X is later identified as Jenny Svartsjo. A young woman who never stood a chance. Growing up with an alcoholic mother and a paedophile father, who abused her. Her life is simply tragic.
“A mother should never abandon her child no matter what happens”
Jenny’s abuse followed her into her schooling, where she was relentless bullied by peers and teachers. It is no wonder that after being found sexually violated with an acidic rag stuffed in her mouth, rendering also mute. She later commits suicide in hospital. I found the characterisation of Jenny’s life, heart-breaking. I couldn’t help but feel intense sympathy for her life and continued suffering. I am certain that if I searched real life cases, of victims of such brutality, many real-life Jenny’s exist.
The investigation continues with further information gathering around the men that frequent the lodge. But one thing is for certain “four women, the same fate, the same perpetrator”. When a brothel is raided in the course of the investigation, it further shows the true depravity inflicted on female victims. There are hints of police corruption or collusion. Then Maria Murvall begins to talk…….
There are so many scenes in the novel which had amazing pieces of writing, to accompany them. But to feature them all here would simply create far too many spoilers. but I will finish this review with my favourite quote. When faced with the relatives/spouses of the perpetrators:
“The mantra of the selfish
the close associate of evil
don’t want to know
don’t want to see”
Incredibly dark and honest and expertly written 5*
Web: http://www.monskallentoft.se/ (with an option to translate into English)