Source: Review copy
Publication: 7 October 2021 from Point Blank
My thanks to the publisher for an advance copy for review
It only takes one…
A resident of small-town Visberg is found decapitated
A grim celebration in a cultish hilltop community after the apple harvest
A race against time
As Visberg closes ranks to keep its deadly secrets, there could not be a worse time for Tuva Moodyson to arrive as deputy editor of the local newspaper. Powerful forces are at play and no one dares speak out. But Tuva senses the story of her career, unaware that perhaps she is the story…
Will Dean is on fire with his fourth book in the Tuva Moodyson series. Tuva is settling in to her new role as Deputy Editor, now expanded to take in the town of Visberg, which is to be Tuva’s beat following a takeover of their local paper by the Gavrik Posten. Visberg is a small, mountain town and Tuva is keen to get to know the local people and the key players, the better to garner stories for the paper.
Visberg is a different kettle of fish to Gavrik. They have their own customs and festivals. It’s not a poor town by any means. But the local people aren’t keen on incomers and Tuva finds a culture of silence and suspicion.
This Tuva Moodyson book is a perfect Halloween read. A blend of thriller and horror, it features my favourite characters, the troll making sisters Cornelia and Alice Sorlie who are, of all things, in a pop-up shop just ready for all Hallows eve.
Surrounded by the dark and in elk hunting season, especially dangerous forests, all Tuva’s worst fears are confirmed when she is drawn towards a screaming woman to find the decapitated body of a man and the blood-soaked screaming woman.
Bad Apples is redolent with oppressive smells, sounds and the atmosphere is heavy and full of malevolence. When I was young I used to love the satanic novels of Dennis Wheatley with their atmosphere of satanic ritual and abandoning all sense of propriety during the all-important Walpurgis Night, and that sense of total abandon is conjured up in Dean’s celebrations in the town of Visberg.
As we watch Tuva size up the locals as she is introduced by the former proprietor of the local paper whose beat she is now in charge of, we are aware of the stench of rotting apples in the air everywhere she goes; the strangeness of the Watchmaker and his shop, and the endless gamers in The Hive, a dark hut where I could smell the unwashed musky male bodies. Even the local pizza parlour has some strange and unpalatable toppings to turn the stomach. If you think pineapple on a pizza is weird, you should see some of these toppings!
As Tuva tries to get to know people and work out who might give her the best stories, she finds that what happens in Visberg stays in Visberg – quite literally. The town is presided over by one wealthy family, the Edlunds and a fault line runs through the town keeping them on one side and the rest of the town on the other. The Edlunds exclusively habituate the local golf club and being enabled to join is the pinnacle of achievement for any local business person.
Danger is everywhere and Tuva is constantly being pointed at one man in particular as the potential perpetrator of decapitation city. As things heat up in Visberg, we are once more in fear for Tuva; perhaps more so because she has finally found personal happiness alongside one of the great female friendships with Tammy.
Pursuing her murderer, Tammy isn’t always on the right track by any means and we know her fear of the dark forest which is only enhanced by the danger posed by the elk hunters blasting away. But Tuva is nothing if not tenacious and she puts aside her fears and allows herself to follow the evidence. Will Dean’s dark and compelling story leads her into very real trouble where I squirmed more than once as jeopardy battled with weirdness and won.
Verdict: Rich and atmospheric and with a cast of weird and wonderful characters, Bad Apples is a gripping, thrilling story with lots of drama, not a little horror and some fantastic characters that linger in the mind. It’s creepy, tense and absolutely unpredictable. Will Dean gives us pace, drama, action, thrills and weirdness as well as a central character we can’t help but love.
Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands and lived in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. His debut novel, Dark Pines, was selected for Zoe Ball’s Book Club, shortlisted for
the Guardian Not the Booker prize and named a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year. The second Tuva Moodyson thriller, Red Snow, won ‘Best Independent Voice’ at the Amazon Publishing
Readers’ Awards, 2019, and was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020. The third novel, Black River, was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2021. Rights for the series have been sold in eight territories (France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Poland, Czech Republic, China and Turkey). Will lives in Sweden where the Tuva Moodyson novels are set.