The Ninth Grave Book Review: New Scandinavian Noir

The Ninth Grave by Stefan Ahnhem Book Review

What is this about?: Two investigations into horrific crimes in Denmark and Sweden grip the countries and two different police investigators.

What else is this about?: The personal lives of the detectives involved, in fact, couples and falling in love are a constant thread in this book.

Stars: 3/5


On the coldest day of the year, Sweden’s Minister for Justice steps out of Parliament House and into a blizzard – and disappears. That same night, across the Baltic Sea, a Danish celebrity finds a stranger lurking in her snow-bound home.

One is a surgeon who carefully dissects his victims. The other is a brutal predator who targets women. Police in Stockholm and Copenhagen are closing in on their suspects. But as winter darkens and more people die, their investigations begin to unravel.


Frozen solid

Kristen Burns over at Metaphors and Moonlight had a timely post right when I finished reading this book: how does the environment affect your reading. With this book it’s a bit of the opposite — set in the Danish and Swedish winters, it left me cold at the height of the Australian summer. Does that happen to you? 

The Ninth Grave by Stefan Ahnhem is an ambitious story featuring two lead detectives in two different cities investigating two crimes – disturbing, heart in my mouth sort of crimes that I may have skimmed over certain parts because yes, it’s intenseBut you know what makes it that level of intense? The restraint with which Ahnhem describes those scenes, almost matter-of-fact that heightens the OHMYGOD factor for me.

The two detectives

Dunja and Fabian are the lead detectives in the case, and Ahnhem spends a wealth of time on their personal lives, describing the problems with each relationship, and the frustrations their work creates in their lives.

Where Ahnhem succeeds is in ability to make these two characters very relatable, even as he puts them and their personal lives through the wringer. But, I have to admit, it’s distracting in the beginning, slowing down the narrative, I thought, until the story truly takes off.

Then, the time spent on their personal lives start to make sense. The worst, most determined killers are the ones who kill for love, putting everything at risk for the other person in their lives. Which makes the contrast with our good guys and their faltering personal lives all the more stark.

Death, destruction and plotting

I have to admire the scope of Ahnhem’s story — spanning two cities, two lead characters and a cast of two sets of secondary characters. Each set of characters is clear and defined and battling their own sets of roadblocks in their stories.

The cases themselves grow more disturbing as the book progresses, heightening the tension and the pressure the detectives find themselves under. I also admire that the strength of this storytelling is in the way his vast plot comes together and doesn’t rely on the twist in the tale, even though it’s definitely there.

The Ninth Grave might be a slow start, but Ahnhem is a deft hand at holding his narrative threads together, and making each cast of his characters matter. It’s out now. 


  • Great review, Verushka! This sounds like a pretty cool read. I do love detectives and it definitely sounds like a good suspense story!

  • Greg says:

    I have had that- books set in cold climes that almost MAKe you cold lol, or vice versa, set in sun drenched locales that make you want to be there! I love reading a wintry book in the winter for example, it really helps with the tone. Anyway this sounds great and very atmospheric. And I know what you mean- really character background heavy set-ups can be rough to get through, but when they pay off at the end it’s nice.

    • Verushka says:

      I didn’t expect to have such an intense reaction to it, but I’m glad I did lol I enjoyed the pay off — it was a lesson well learned for me.

  • This is new to me! I don’t read a ton of mystery stories, but I do enjoy them when I read them. I just read one (for the first time in a looooooong time) – The Devil’s Daughter by Katee Robert. Super great book! The twist at the end was really good. Anyway! I’m glad you mostly enjoyed the book, even though it ended up being a three-star read! Wonderful review, Verushka!

    Have a great weekend. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

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