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A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson trsl by Rachel Willson-Broyles @PanMacmillan

July 15, 2019

Source: Review copy #Netgalley
Publication: 11 July 2019 from Pan MacMillan
PP: 480
ISBN-13: 978-1529008128

Every murder case starts with a suspect.
What if the suspect is your daughter?
Would you believe her, or the evidence against her?

The Father
Believes his daughter has been framed.

The Mother
Believes she is hiding something.

The Daughter
Believes they have no idea what she’s truly capable of . . .

There are three sides to the story. And the truth will shatter this family to pieces.

This is without doubt one of the most fascinating psychological thrillers I have read in a long time.  I’m always a bit wary of the psychological thriller label, because these days it used as a catch all for crime novels that are not straightforward police procedurals.

But this book is all that it promises to be and more. Told in three voices, in almost equal parts, this is the story of eighteen year old Stella Sandell, accused of murdering a man almost twice her age. She is the daughter of Adam, a local pastor and his wife, Ulrika, a criminal lawyer.

The reader is presented with three perspectives on the story that unfolds as we begin to understand who Stella is and why she is suspected of this crime.

The Sandells are a respectable family, comfortably off and to all intents and purposes everything in their garden is rosy.  

Then Stella is arrested for the murder by stabbing of 32-year-old Christopher Olsen.

We hear first from Adam, Stella’s father. That he loves his daughter is not something we can be in doubt about, but Stella concerns him. He has always found her wilful, even as a child and sought without success to curb her excesses. He sees her as sometimes out of control and on at least one occasion he failed in his duty to be the kind of father that she really needed. Their relationship hasn’t been the same since.

Adam will have to decide how far he is willing to test his faith and his reputation in order to keep his daughter from going to prison.

Stella’s sexuality has been on overdrive most of her teenage years. A large part of that has been pure rebellion; some of her behaviour has been, consciously or not, to spite her parents. Her dalliance with the older businessman comes with an ex-girlfriend who has many warning flags to raise about her ex.

Stella’s mother, Ulrika is a walking tower of guilt. She knows she doesn’t have the relationship with Stella that she wanted to have – in fact she has a better relationship with Stella’s best friend, Amina. She has never been able to be the moderator between Adam and Stella and she has a secret of her own that Stella has managed to find out.

Amid this family drama, Ulrike and Adam will have to consider how well they know Stella and what they believe she might be capable of. Then they will face the decision of what they are going to do about it.

Each of these voices is tightly written and completely convincing. Taken together they present an often contradictory picture as we see each character through the eyes of the other two.  Behaviours seem very different when viewed through the eyes of others and the reader is left to watch this family, who always thought of themselves as a typical, normal family, are faced with some huge moral dilemmas.

It is precisely the normal-ness of this family that makes this book quite so compelling. You can’t help but wonder what you would do in similar circumstances and I can see this one being hotly debated.

This is not a fast-paced book, but it is immensely thought-provoking and genuinely fascinating.  Edvardsson takes his time building a solid picture of a family in crisis within a courtroom wrapper that both thrills and fascinates. The translation is excellent; inasmuch as I really didn’t notice I was reading a translation.

Verdict: Enthralling, original and compelling. This is a stand-out psychological thriller.

Hive Books                                      Waterstones                                  Amazon

M T. Edvarsson is an author and teacher from the south of Sweden. He has written three previous novels, two books for young adult readers and two books for small children in Swedish. He lives with his family in Löddeköpinge, Sweden.

One Comment
  1. I really liked the look of this. It’s on my TBR.
    Great review as always


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