My debut novel, DARK PINES, is set in the wilds of central Sweden. I hail from the East Midlands but five years ago I moved to live full-time in a small boggy clearing at the centre of an enormous forest north of Gothenburg. I write Nordic Noir from the perspective of an outsider. I’m not a Scandinavian writer but I’ve been travelling to the Nordics every year for twenty years, and I now live in Sweden with my Swedish wife. DARK PINES is set in an isolated town in Värmland, four hours north of my forest. Being an outsider myself means I sometimes notice things Swedes overlook. I hear phrases they think are perfectly normal. And as a Brit I sense the danger and wildness of the vast nature here; the potential, however unlikely, for an encounter with a bull elk or a brown bear or a wolf. The Swedish landscape and the Swedish people fascinate me. And because both can be inaccessible, I relish the time it takes to discover idiosyncrasies that Swedes might take for granted.
Tuva Moodyson, my protagonist, is a young deaf journalist terrified of nature. Tuva has lived in London and Stockholm. She is a city person. Through her eyes as an outsider, you’ll experience small town Gavrik life, with its eccentric never-been-out-of-the-region locals, and its overwhelming spruce forests. Tuva is as unaccustomed to elk hunts and gunfire and two-man police stations as you or me. She is out of her comfort zone. And as a reader you’re along for the ride. I came up with the idea for DARK PINES when I was out playing with my toddler in my swampy garden. It was autumn and the pines were dark and the forest floor was littered with mushrooms: some delicious, some deadly. The sound of high calibre rifle fire boomed through the wet trees. I didn’t flinch. And that was what I found so odd. It had become normal for me, after a few hunt seasons living here, to hear rifle fire and not question the origin or the intended target. So I thought: what if? Could it be that the discharged bullet was meant for another hunter out here in the endless trees, rather than a cow elk or her calf? Wouldn’t gunfire, the sound normalised for locals in October just like crow caws or owl hoots, wouldn’t that make a good cover for a murder? In Stockholm a rifle shot would raise suspicions. Questions would be asked and the police would be called. Not so in Utgard forest.
Because my Tuva Moodyson novels take place over two weeks, I can immerse the reader in a specific season. DARK PINES opens on day one of the elk hunt. The forests are dense and wet and they smell of mulch and rot and mushrooms and sitting water. The sound of gunfire is everywhere. As a Brit writing novels set in Sweden, my enthusiasm for the nature here is almost childlike. Large parts of this country are truly wild. Anything can happen.
DARK PINES by Will Dean is published by Point Blank, an imprint of Oneworld, on 4 January, paperback £12.99