Where SUN AND SHADOW took place in the cold of winter, NEVER END takes the seasonally diametrically opposite milieu of a summer heatwave, making the book perfect beach holiday reading. The inappropriately named Chief Inspector Erik Winter is called in to investigate an attack on a teenage girl returning home after enjoying the weather at the local beauty spot. The girl seems reluctant to reveal much about her ordeal, only reporting it to the police after destroying vital evidence.
After a second, more serious attack, Winter realises the crimes are similar to an unsolved case from years ago in which a girl was killed, which has always haunted him. He has kept in touch with the parents of the girl over the years, so he enlists their support in the new cases. He remains frustrated, however, at the lack of progress and the strange reluctance of the victims, their families and friends from assisting to find the perpetrator(s).
The book also covers domestic events in the lives of the investigating police. Winter and his girlfriend Anna have had their baby, Elsa. The relationship of this trio provides part of the background to events, as Winter's devotion to his job gradually erodes the rather fragile trust between him and Anna (who has not quite forgiven him for his behaviour in the previous book) and leads him to question his commitment to his young family. This commitment is pretty serious, because Winter is about to take a year's parental leave (this being Sweden) to look after Elsa. How he will adjust to this radical change of pace will be an interesting topic for a future book.
Winter's colleague Fredrick Halders suffers a personal tragedy when his ex-wife is killed in a freak road accident. The accounts of Halders' attempts to cope with this disaster and connect with his young children are one of the best parts of this book, ably translated by the ever-dependable Laurie Thompson.
The middle part of the narrative drags somewhat, as the investigators are stuck for leads and resort to re-interviewing everyone and rehashing the events surrounding the crimes many times. Eventually, by sheer persistence, some clues are uncovered (one challenge is to identify an indoor brick wall that features in a photograph of one of the girls) and eventually Winter gets his criminal – after a rather cliched "policeman in peril" climax featuring the bereaved Halders.
Despite its longeurs and lack of real tension, I enjoyed this book and very much look forward to the next outing for Winter – will it be autumn or spring next time? – but I do hope the next episode will be slightly more tautly written.
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