Red Snow is the second Tuva Moodyson novel from Will Dean. Dark Pines, the first in the series, introduced the determined investigative journalist as she unravelled a series of grisly murders that led her into the depths of the frozen forest surrounding the small Swedish town of Gavrik. In Red Snow, Tuva is drawn into another mystery, this time centred on the liquorice factory at the heart of the town. Dean brilliantly captures the long, dark, cold winters and the isolation and claustrophobia of small town life. Red Snow is a dark, compelling novel with a cast of complex, and occasionally eccentric, characters. We’ve an extract from the book, below.
He hits the cobbled area in front of the factory, in front of the arch, and his head breaks like a watermelon.
One person screams.
A singular howl from a woman standing behind me.
‘Get Thord,’ I say to Janitor Andersson. ‘Get the police.’
But he just stands there looking down at the man on the cobbles and then up to the chimney and then back down to the man. More people are coming out now, fastening coats and adjusting hats and gasping as they work out what just happened.
I see someone head off to the police station all of one minute away so I run into the factory lot and the snow is turning red.
‘Stay with me,’ I say, louder and more forcefully than I’d expected, but it’s no use, he is the most dead person I have ever seen. His limbs are twisted and his arms are pulled in tight to his cracked head like a child in deep sleep. I feel useless. I can’t help this broken man, I can’t do anything for him.
Thord arrives at my side and takes the man’s pulse and moves his cold ungloved hands toward the man’s head but then stops because what good would it do?
He leads me away from the body and turns around and after a while an ambulance pulls up.
‘Out of our way,’ says one of two paramedics.
They get to work and I stagger a few steps back toward the iron gates and half of Gavrik has turned out now; took some of them a while to get their outdoor gear on I guess, their boots and their mittens and their jackets and their bobble hats. But they’re here now.
I feel faint so I let my back rest against the railings. I slouch down and notice a speck of pink snow on my boots and I think I’ll pass out but I don’t. And then I hear scream number two.
A well-dressed woman runs out through the factory arch and throws herself down next to the dead man. The paramedics retreat for a moment like they know who she is and they can’t do much anyway.
‘Step back, everyone,’ says Thord, his arms outstretched, walking toward the street, toward the crowd of ski jacket people. ‘Best thing you can all do is step back and return to your offices and your homes. Step back, please.’
And they do. Because they’re Swedes and because they can’t see much now that the ambulance is blocking their view, and also because it’s minus nineteen, maybe less.
An old couple walk off up the street consoling each other.
Constable Thord looks at me.
‘You alright, Tuvs?’
The woman who threw herself down at the dead man, I’m pretty sure he was the boss of the factory and she’s his wife, Anna-Britta I think her name is, she’s wailing now, quietly sobbing from behind the ambulance. Chief Björn turns up and says something to Thord and then heads over to the body and pulls off his hat. It’s getting dark now, whites turning into greys.
A Volvo taxi drives past slowly and another cop arrives. The new one. She started last week and that story made my front page. I can only see her back right now, black hair under her police hat, a tortoiseshell grip holding it all together. She turns and I see her face in this dull light and her eyes flash to me.
‘We’re gonna close up the gates,’ Thord says, frost in his eyebrows, a red-haired woman passing behind him. ‘Need to take photos and whatnot, and also talk to witnesses so maybe you can help me get a list together, seeing as you were here?’
I nod to him. ‘Sure. Now?’
‘Head over to the station in, I don’t know, about an hour, an hourand-a-half.’
‘Best if you get back to your office now. Sorry you had to see that.’
I photograph the chimney and the ambulance on my phone. After I turn my back on the scene, on the frozen weight of what has just happened, I can still feel the power of it behind me. It’s uncomfortable to turn my back, to shun it, the brick factory and those two chimneys and the dead man broken in the snow. The shadow, the shadow of all of it, is stretching down Storgatan, and I follow it for a few minutes, a black Mercedes 4x4 skidding away as if to escape the chimney’s darkness, and then I turn left and open the door to Gavrik Posten.
Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying Law at the LSE, and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it's from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.