Our man in Malmö

With a new Skåne County Police commissioner wanting to make his mark in Malmö, the Criminal Investigation Squad is under pressure when they are called in to solve the killing of a private investigator. The nature of the victim’s work throws up some obvious suspects, yet not all is what it seems. When another murder takes place, there seems to be a politically sensitive connection.
Anita Sundström, out of the force for a year after her resignation, is approached by a dying woman to track down a collection of paintings stolen from her family. The paintings were looted by the Nazis in Budapest in 1944. But needing the money, Anita takes on this seemingly impossible task. As she heads off to Hungary, she has no idea of the dangers ahead. This is the eighth mystery in the best-selling Anita Sundström crime series.

Ahead of the publication day for Mammon in Malmö on 6th June 2021, I asked its author Torquil MacLeod to share reflections about his various Swedish connections.

‘It was on a storm-tossed ferry from Newcastle in the middle of December in the year 2000 that we made our visit to Sweden. On arrival in Gothenburg, we took a very slow train down the coast and ended up at a desolate Malmö Central Station at midnight. We were virtually the only people left on the train when we were met by our elder son who had recently moved to Skåne. We drove through deserted streets and the only bright spots were the electric Christmas lights in nearly every window. It wasn’t the most promising of starts, yet it turned out to be the beginning of a great adventure. 

During that first wintry visit, I was captivated by the landscape of Skåne https://visitskane.com/cities-locations/malmo, the southernmost region of Sweden. For part of our sojourn, we stayed in the attractive coastal town of Ystad with a police detective who has become a firm friend and has proved a useful source of information over the years. She worked out of the station, which I discovered some years later was the home of Henning Mankell’s fictional detective, Kurt Wallander.

At the time of our visit, I was interested in writing film scripts and was working on a number of projects with a producer friend. Among the script ideas I came up with were two crime-based dramas set in southern Sweden; one specifically in Malmö. With my screenwriting career going nowhere fast, I decided to dust off an old film treatment, and it morphed into my first novel, Meet me in Malmö.    

Though the central figure, Anita Sundström, was to be a Swedish police inspector, I wanted to give British readers an outsider’s view of the country – my view. The novel was a basic introduction to Sweden, as home-grown Swedish writing – just as crime writing from any other country – assumes a certain degree of local knowledge and cultural understanding in its readers.  In my subsequent Malmö Mysteries, I have attempted to fill in some of the gaps. In doing so, I appear to have become a member of the Scandi-Brit sub-genre of Nordic crime along with Quentin Bates, Michael Ridpath and Will Dean.

I also wanted Anita to be different from many other fictional detectives. Unlike Kurt Wallander, Harry Hole, Morse, Rebus and even Jane Tennyson, she is only one of a team. She’s not running the investigations. She’s only a cog in the machine and has to work within those restrictions. She can’t be the clichéd maverick figure. It’s her role within the team that leads to tensions. 

The other main character in the story is Malmö itself. My son called it home for several years. It’s a pleasant city – particularly in the summer with all its beautiful parks. Much as I enjoyed The Bridge, I was disappointed that the producers deliberately ignored many of the city’s obvious attractions. Malmö is also a cultural melting pot with a large immigrant population. Thanks to the opening of the Öresund Bridge in 2000 linking it to Copenhagen, it has transformed itself from backwater town into cosmopolitan city. This is Anita Sundström’s beat.

I also like to weave aspects of Swedish history into the modern crime mix. In Midnight there was Lenin’s visit to Malmö on his way to Russia and its earth-shattering revolution. Menace featured the eighteenth-century orientalist, linguist and traveller, Jakob Jonas Björnstahl; while Malice covered the large number of child refugees that Sweden took in from Finland during the Second World War. Mourning dealt with the Estonia ferry disaster while my latest book, Mammon in Malmö, looks at Sweden’s contrasting roles in the last war.

My Swedish adventure may have had a rough start but the country now plays a huge role in my life. And the journey has come full circle as I have two wonderful Swedish grandchildren living in Ystad, where it all began.’ 

More information about all eight books can be found here: Torquil MacLeod – McNidder & Grace

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