Motive X is the fourth book by Swedish crime fiction author Stefan Ahnhem to be published in English. It is set in the idyllic coastal town of Helsingborg, where a wave of brutal but apparently random homicides pressures the police. The murders have no pattern, no order and no motives. And lead investigator Fabian Risk is distracted by his own mission to uncover a corrupt colleague and to take care of his disintegrating family. Motive X is the fourth installment in the series featuring Fabian Risk and can be read as a stand-alone, but it´s certainly more rewarding to read the books in chronological order.
The Fabian Risk series
To get the story of Fabian Risk and his team right I should advice you to start with the prequel The Ninth Grave, where Fabian is living and working in Stockholm. When the Swedish Minister of Justice disappears without a trace between the house of Parliament and his car, Fabian is ordered to undertake a secret search for the minister. At the same time there is a brutal murder north of Copenhagen and detective Dunja Hougaard at the Copenhagen police has to set out on hunting a killer. In due time the Swedish and Danish crime trails connect and both Risk and Hougaard close in on a conspiracy worse than anyone could imagine.
In Victim Without a Face Fabian and his family are returning to his home town Helsingborg. Their plan is to start afresh and spend the summer holidays together before Fabian starts his a new job at the Homicide Department at the Helsingborg Police. But after only a few hours in their new home, he is asked to investigate a brutal murder with connections to his own high school class. The motive seems to be revenge and when another former classmate is killed Fabian finds himself in a race against time: Can they find the murderer before the entire class is killed?
Eighteen Below is a thoroughly complicated story, dealing with identity theft and serial murders. The Helsingborg police have to turn over every stone looking for a man who carefully selects wealthy people, imprisons them in freezers until they’re dead, and then impersonates them and take over their assets. At the same time Danish police Dunja Hougaard is trying to track a masked group of teenagers known as “happy slappers”, who randomly assault people and film the attacks. And Fabian´s son seems to be involved…
Stefan Ahnhem and Fabian Risk
Stefan Ahnhem has a background as a scriptwriter for both television and films and he is a master of intricate plots with a lot of interwoven threads and many different characters. His stories are extremely complex with parallel plots and sub-plots, shifting between the viewpoints of victims, offenders and police officers. Besides, they take action on both sides of Öresund, the strait between Sweden and Denmark, which is only 4 kilometres wide at its narrowest point between Helsingør and Helsingborg.
The author himself grew up in Helsingborg just like his main character Fabian Risk. Fabian is a clever and intuitive investigator with a tendency to go his own way. He is addicted to his work, but he is not the typical Nordic Noir hero, rather an ordinary decent man caught between the demands of his job and the needs to take care of his deteriorating marriage and his troubled teenage children. In this video Stefan Ahnhem presents his protagonist and the first three novels in the series: