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The Living and the Dead in Winsford (2013)

by Håkan Nesser

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English (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  Dutch (1)  All (3)
The Living and the Dead in Winsford – Scandi Noir transfers to Exmoor

Hakan Nesser the King of Swedish Noir returns with his latest book, The Living and the Dead in Winsford, where Exmoor gets a starring role, in this psychological thriller. Nesser brings all his skills to bare in this thriller, which is a slow cooker, but lets you in to the twist in the last couple of pages. This is not a fast paced book, but carefully written, so we see the world from our narrator’s point of view, Maria Holinek.

Maria Holinek is a star of Swedish television, a well known face across the country and she is married to Martin who is a University Professor of Literature. He also happens to be at the centre of yet another scandal, and has been accused of rape, and all the various pressures that brings. He suggests to Maria that they spend winter in Morocco while he writes a book.

Maria, is our narrator who decides to change her name to Maria Anderson, and rather spend winter in the sunny climes of Northern Africa, she opts to spend hers in England. Furthermore she bumps in to someone she used to work with in London but pretends not to know her.

Maria, with her dog, Castor, opts to spend the winter up on Exmoor, a place as eerie anywhere in winter that Swedish Noir would like to be. She tells locals that she is a writer, and that she is writing a book. She rents a cottage, Darne Lodge, just above the village of Winsford on Exmoor, and her only near neighbours are the Exmoor Ponies.

As autumn turns in to winter and Maria is left more and more with her thoughts that are haunting her, especially as the weather and the outlook becomes rather bleak on the moors. Trying to come to terms with her past and her present while not having a breakdown means that she takes long walks with Castor across the moors.

To the people she is the lady writer, who sometimes uses the community centre where there is an internet connection to keep her abreast of what is happening in the wider world as well as her family. The more time passes her the more depressed she seems to become at times, feeling haunted by people and her past. All Maria wants to do is out live Castor before she can die.

As Maria feels more isolated, she makes friends with a local Mark, who falls in love with her, which is not something she expected or really wanted. She spends more time walking and getting lost on the moors, just as her life seems to becoming more lost and broken. You really start to worry about her mental health when castor goes missing.

Will her mental state remain hanging by a thread, will we ever find out what happened, what is causing her to breakdown. The darkness in this novel is a reflection of the darkness that can be felt in winter up on Exmoor as well as what you expect in Scandi Noir.

This is yet another excellent thriller by Hakan Nesser that leaves you guessing all the way to the end. Will she out live Castor? You will have to read on to find out. ( )
1 vote atticusfinch1048 | Nov 25, 2015 |
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Epigraph
'Characteristic of the moor is that to all
intents and purposes, it has no beginning and no end.
I would like to mention three other things that are not
to be found in this sublime landscape: cul-de-sacs,
evasive excuses, and last but not least - words.'

Royston Jenkins (1866 - 1953), innkeeper in Culbone

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The day before yesterday I decided that I would outlive my dog.
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A woman arrives in the village of Winsford on Exmoor. She has travelled a long way and chosen her secluded cottage carefully. Her sole intention is to outlive her beloved dog Castor. And to survive the torrent of memories that threaten to overwhelm her. Weeks before, Maria and her husband Martin fled Stockholm under a cloud. The couple were bound for Morocco, where Martin planned to write an explosive novel; one that would reveal the truth behind dark events within his commune of writers decades before. But the couple never made it to their destination.As Maria settles into her lonely new life, walking the wild, desolate moors, it becomes clear that Winsford isn't quite the sanctuary she thought it would be. While the long, dark evenings close in and the weather worsens, strange things begin to happen around her. But what terrible secrets is Maria guarding? And who now is trying to find her?… (more)

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