Series: Stockholm Sleuth Series
Author: Christer Tholin
Genre: Mystery Crime Thriller
“Dammit! She’d made a huge mistake. She’d never make it out of here – they were going to kill her.”
In the crime novella SECRETS?, fledgling private investigator Elin Bohlander takes on what looks like an easy assignment — at first: to determine if her client’s boyfriend is having an affair with another woman. To do this, Elin follows him to a secluded cabin in the woods, where she soon discovers that what’s actually transpiring is stranger than anyone thought. Having ventured too far, she’s stumbled upon a hornet’s nest and put her life at risk. But it’s too late. Can Elin win the unequal fight against a gang of brutal child molesters?
SECRETS? is the second, standalone book from Christer Tholin’s Stockholm Sleuth Series. In the previous novel VANISHED?, Elin and her colleague Lars solve their first case together.
If you like fast-paced action and surprising twists and turns, then you will love Christer Tholin’s sleuth series.
“I was attacked,” she finally gasped.
“What? Are you hurt?” Elin couldn’t believe it. Maja was extremely well trained—she could perform any self-defense move in her sleep. And what did this have to do with the car?
“No. They only threatened me.”
“That’s lucky.” Elin breathed a sigh of relief. At least, Maja was unharmed. “But who threatened you? Now please! Tell me the whole story from the beginning.” Elin gave her a penetrating look. “All right, Maja?”
Maja blew her nose once more and leaned back. “Yeah, OK. So I was walking out of the studio on my way to the underground. Since it was still so light out, I took the shortcut through the park. There was no one in sight other than that guy who’s been following me for the past few days. He was sitting on a bench in the middle of the park. I was trying to decide whether to turn around. But then I thought, ‘This is my chance to find out what this is all about,’ and I walked right up to him. He immediately stood up, and it was only then that I noticed he was wearing a mask. I wanted to go back right away, but when I turned around, there were three other guys standing before me, all with masks as well. I tried to escape to the right, but these guys already had a knife at my throat, and they were restraining me on all sides. Then they pulled me off the path and down into the bushes, and one of them whispered that I should keep my trap shut. I was sure they were going to rape me, and I was desperately trying to figure out how to break free. But then one of them—a tall guy, definitely over six feet—said that they just wanted to talk to me. I didn’t really believe that, but I waited to see what they would say.”
Elin stared at her, spellbound.
“I need something to drink,” Maja said.
Elin rose and went to the kitchen. She had an uneasy feeling for some reason. Four guys, of all things, and one of them very tall. That was surely no coincidence. But why?
Elin handed Maja a glass of water. Maja drank eagerly. “And what did they want?” asked Elin.
“They claimed I’d followed them in my car. And that they didn’t like having someone sneaking around behind them. This would be their first and final warning. If they saw either me or the car nearby again, our next meeting would proceed without a lot of talking. They said they’d make short shrift of me.” Maja had tears in her eyes again, and she let out several sobs. “I had to confirm that I understood. I obviously said yes. After that, one of them hit me in the stomach full force, and I blacked out. When I came to again, the four of them were gone.”
“God, how awful! I’m so sorry—I’m sure they were the same guys I was observing. I just don’t understand why they reacted so viciously. I’ve already put the whole thing to rest. Honestly, Maja, I didn’t want to pull you in. I’m sure it was me they were after.”
“Yeah, that much was clear to me by then. But did you go back to the cabin another time? You only told me about two surveillances. And the men didn’t see you at all, did they?”
“Well, yes, they did. The second time, they stopped briefly next to my—I mean, your car. I ducked right away, but they might have written down or photographed the license plate number. I’m sorry—that was my mistake. The first time, I did better and parked around the corner. I’m sure they didn’t see the car that time. Then the day before yesterday, I was there again for the third and last time because I just couldn’t get the whole business out of my head. I wanted to get through the surveillance quickly, so I drove the car down the dirt road to the fork where it turns off to the cabin. On their way back, they obviously drove by your car, but I was hoping they didn’t see it.”
Maja sighed. “But they did. Did you find anything out?”
“No, that’s why I put the whole thing to rest. The assignment is done. I just wanted to make sure one more time that nothing new had come up. But it was the same game as the other times: working together on their computers, four guys in two cars—nothing more.”
“He could only hope he’d get out of here in one piece.”
To come to terms with his recent divorce, Martin, an attorney in Berlin, plans a peaceful vacation – two weeks in a Swedish summer house seem to be the solution. It won’t be peaceful, however, and those two weeks will change his life forever. He takes a liking to Liv, a Swedish woman whom he meets in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, they don’t get to have their first date – Liv disappears under mysterious circumstances. Martin begins his search but soon realizes he can’t find Liv in a foreign country by himself. He hires two private investigators, and their discoveries make everything seem even stranger.
The complexities in this suspenseful criminal case lead to a hunt across Sweden. Martin comes close to finding answers, but his search lands him in very real danger, eventually leading to the first deaths. Soon he‘s wondering if he can get Liv and himself out of this situation alive.
They left the house and ran to the driveway. There they heard the sound of an engine rapidly approaching.
“Damn, somebody’s coming. Quick, into the woods!”
They rushed behind the house and into the trees, where before them was a narrow path. Martin tried to keep his voice muted: “We’ll cut through the woods to my car. Follow me!”
He followed the wooded pathway for a short stretch, then veered to the right through the trees. It was muddy and difficult to negotiate; that meant they weren’t going to make headway very quickly. “We have to try not to make any noise.”
They moved slowly around the house. The vehicle had now arrived; it was the black pickup.
“Shit.” Martin cursed. Liv held on firmly to his shirtsleeve. “Shouldn’t we try to escape through the woods instead?”
“Do you know your way around here?”
“No.” Liv looked around. “How far is it to my summerhouse?”
“Liv, we’re in Dalarna, really close to your husband’s summerhouse.”
“What?” Liv opened her eyes wider and pressed her hands to her mouth.
Martin looked at her: “To my car?”
They kept moving cautiously through the woods, able to hear the driver getting out and going up to the house. It couldn’t be much longer until he noticed that Liv’s things were missing; then he would go into the cellar and…
Gradually they put more distance behind them and approached the driveway. Martin looked back and believed they could now leave their cover without risk. It went faster on the driveway; Martin’s shoulder ached with every step, but now was the time to keep his teeth clenched. Just as he unlocked the car, he heard a sound from the house. The man had come out the door and roared something that Martin didn’t understand. Liv looked at him with horror. As fast as they could, they climbed into the car. Martin started it; unfortunately, he still had to turn it around, and there was very little space to do so. Twice he backed up until he could finally drive off. At that very moment, the engine of the pickup revved behind them. He looked in the rear-view mirror; the truck was already approaching them. He hit the gas. The car reacted and lurched forward with a jerk. Martin drove as fast as he could; Liv was frightened; she held on to the armrest and looked around from back to front.
“I’m trying to.”
Martin pushed the pedal harder. The main road lay in front of them – he knew he wouldn’t make the curve at that speed. Even so he kept driving at the same velocity; a brief glance revealed the pickup directly behind them. The engine was loud, and the black steel fenders in front of the hood were coming dangerously close. At the intersection to the main road, Martin braked slightly, hoping to make it onto the dirt road without landing in the ditch. Gripping the steering wheel with all his strength, the Audi swung around, and it looked like they would make it. But the pickup had other plans. It didn’t intend to make the curve. The driver swerved slightly to the right and rammed the Audi from the side just as they reached the bend. The Audi’s rear end slung around towards the woods. Liv screamed, both airbags deployed and Martin braked with everything in his power. The car came to a stop diagonally across the road.
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About the Author:
The author grew up in the North of Germany, Schleswig-Holstein. Today, he lives together with his family in Stockholm, Sweden, where he works as management consultant.
Already for ages he has been a great fan of crime stories and therefore, had the desire to write his own crime story with the characters acting in Sweden. This crime-fiction is available under the title “Vanished?”.
The crime novel starts at a slower pace – like Martin’s holidays, but the tension goes up more and more. It comes to a number of surprising turns giving new impulses to the story. Apart from that, the lovely country Sweden is described with the view of a foreigner.