Publication: 2 May 2019 from Head of Zeus
He strikes at random. His motive unknown. No one is safe…
Helsingborg police must solve the unsolveable. A wave of apparently random homicides is sweeping through their idyllic seaside town. The murders have no pattern, no order, no reason. The perpetrator is immune to psychological profiling; forensically untraceable; utterly invulnerable to modern police techniques.
The body count is growing. But lead investigator Fabian Risk is distracted by his mission to expose a corrupt colleague, and his boss Astrid is spiralling back into addiction. As the hunt for the solution becoming ever more desperate, their tight-knit team begins to unravel…
Motive X is both an explosive, multi-layered thriller and a fearless exploration of the darkest side of human nature. To enter Stefan Ahnhem’s world, with its interwoven plotlines and sprawling cast of characters, is to put yourself in the hands of a master storyteller.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Stefan Ahnhem at Granite Noir last year and greatly enjoyed reading his first Fabian Risk thriller, Victim Without A Face.
So I am delighted to be able to bring you an extract from his current Fabian Risk novel, Motive X. Stefan Ahnhem’s books are the essence of dark Scandinavian Noir and Detective Fabian Risk has a complex personality whose resourcefulness and determination ensure that, while he may not always take his police colleagues with him, he is relentless in getting to the truth.
So without further introduction, I am pleased to bring you an extract from Motive X.
MOTIVE X – STEFAN AHNHEM
For the first time in a month, Fabian went over to his record collection at the far end of the living room and let his eyes rove across the rows of CDs. He owned more than four thousand albums, and that was after weeding out a quarter when he’d left Stockholm over two years ago.
For a whole month, silence had been the only sound he could bear. It was the longest he had gone without music in his whole adult life. A month ago, a madman posing as an art collector had nearly destroyed their family. He had manipulated Sonja, becoming her muse and lover, and inserting himself into all their lives. Then he shot Matilda right here, in Fabian’s own living room. Fabian couldn’t bear to think about what might have happened next if he hadn’t been able to get to a gun himself. And now, with those events playing on a loop in his mind, it was as though his brain was unable to take anything else in. Not even Brian Eno’s soaring escapism had worked. The smallest note had given him an instant headache.
But now, his spirits had finally returned. He felt like doing things again. Getting up in the morning and defying the rain with a jog through Pålsjö Forest. Cooking a nice meal and gathering the family around the dinner table.
What with Matilda’s waking up and her doctors’ assurances that she would be able to go home by the end of the week, he could finally feel firm ground under his feet again. True, she had been acting a bit strange and they were far from done discussing what had really happened to Theodor that night. But somehow, he felt sure everything would be all right. That at the end of the day, there was nothing to prevent them from becoming a proper family once more.
The only X in the equation was Sonja.
Until now, there had been no room or time for her or him. Much less for them. If there even still was a them. Not too long ago, Sonja had informed him she wanted a divorce. A concept he had kicked around himself on and off for the past few years, which she had now appropriated.
The warning signs had been there all along. Flashing red, blaring like klaxons at the end of a bad disaster film. And yet he had been caught off guard by her suddenly being ready to move on without him, declaring in the same breath that there was nothing he could do about it.
But where Sonja stood now, after her lover had revealed himself to be an impostor, he had no clue. He didn’t even really have a clear idea of what had been done to her in the hours before those horrifying events in their living room.
He did suspect the worst, based on what little he knew. For instance, her expensive art piece ‘The Hanging Box’ had, for some reason, been confiscated by the police as evidence. Then there were the bruises all over her body, which he had caught a glimpse of at one point, when he forgot to knock before entering their bedroom. And it wasn’t just the bruises. What he saw was a broken woman who seemed to have lost all faith in herself.
At least when it came to her art, if she was to be believed, she was done with it. She was nothing but a talentless bluff anyway. It wasn’t something they’d talked about, just something that had trickled out in throw-away subclauses; whenever he brought it up, she shut him down. Just like she had every time he’d broached the subject of their future.
The past few weeks had, granted, been one long crisis, and all their energy had been spent sitting by Matilda’s bedside; maybe everything would change now that she was coming home. Maybe things would finally return to normal.
He pulled out Gone to Earth with David Sylvian and studied the cover. It was the second CD he’d bought, after Sign o’ the Times with Prince, and he could still remember playing it for Sonja in the flat they’d just moved into together.
She had liked it so much she had improvised a dance, and he had turned it up so loud their neighbour had eventually rung their doorbell. But they had simply stuffed the bell with cotton wool and opened another bottle of wine. As though no problems would ever find them, so long as they stood united.
He connected the speakers in the kitchen, turned the volume up and started making dinner to the sound of old Japan members Steve Jansen and Mick Karn’s sophisticated groove in ‘Taking the Veil’.
Since Sonja was spending the night with Matilda, it was just him and Theodor. Which meant last night’s leftover pasta, fried crispy in olive oil with some finely sliced garlic, a few chopped tomatoes and olives, would have to do.
The door to his son’s room was closed, as usual, so he tapped it gently before opening it, only to see Theodor startle violently in his desk chair and quickly turn on the screensaver on his laptop.
‘All right, I’ll be right there.’
Fabian nodded and turned to leave but stopped mid-motion. ‘Actually, what are you up to?’
‘Nothing. I said I’ll be right there.’
Fabian remembered his own teenage years all too well. Like Theodor, he had been prone to shutting himself up in his room, driven by an overwhelming need to be left alone, always worried about the door being thrown open at any moment by a curious parent.
Now he was the annoying parent who put his foot in the door and asked endless questions. The difference was that in this case, it wasn’t about a packet of cigarettes or a few well-thumbed porn rags, but the gun Theodor had brought home. About his broken nose, which even though the surgery was weeks ago, was still swollen and a yellowish blue colour. About what had really happened before he came home that night almost four weeks ago.
I hope that has whetted your appetite to read Motive X. I can’t wait to get stuck into it!
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STEFAN AHNHEM is the internationally bestselling author of the Fabian Risk thrillers. He has worked as a screenwriter on Mankell’s Kurt Wallender series and serves on the board of the Swedish Writers Guild. He lives in Copenhagen.
Follow Stefan: Facebook: @ahnhem.stefan