Good Girls Don’t Tell begins with the gruesome murder of Erik Berggren. Strapped to a kitchen table, mouth taped shut, he’s scalded with boiling water and stabbed through the heart. Details of his murder are passed to Inspector Magnus Kalo and his team. Magnus, once enjoyed his job, ‘Now it just felt like he was rowing up and down shit creek without getting too much of it on himself’.
As the investigation begins, Magnus goes to the nursing home in which Eric’s mother, Gunvor, lives to deliver the news of her son’s murder. Arriving at her room, he thinks she’s dead but when he hears her wheeze he steps forward.
The woman staring back at him expressionlessly had spatters of blood on her face, and the lower part of her body was a maelstrom of red flesh. She was looking at him in confusion. Her eyes expressed no pain – they were shiny and questioning.
Both Gunvor and Erik have had their genitals burned with boiling water.
Magnus’ wife, Lina, is a therapist, and interested in the case. As Magnus (unprofessionally) shares some details with her, she begins to wonder whether this is about gender and sexuality, but can’t see a link between the two victims. At the same time, Magnus and his team are wondering whether the perpetrator is female after a woman was spotted leaving the nursing home around the time Magnus went to Gunvor’s room.
The case is complicated by two things: the first occurs when Magnus and his colleague, Roger, visit the farm the Berggren’s used to own. The place is currently unoccupied, having been bought by a couple who’ve never got round to doing it up.
When they returned to the courtyard it was almost completely dark, but they were both eager to make sure they had time to search the house before leaving so they made haste toward the building. Neither of them noticed the figure slowly rising out of the hay behind them, carefully through a crack in the barn wall.
That figure will go on to terrify Lina and Magnus.
The second is a connection to Argentina via Eric’s father, Gösta, who worked there in the 1950s and has since died. There is a connection here to the military junta and also an accusation of rape, for which Gösta was never convicted. The inquiries around that case open up memories of torture and also ask questions around gender and sexuality, demonstrating how damaging patriarchal ideas can be for both genders.
Good Girls Don’t Tell is a violent, gruesome, often scary novel. It is also fast-paced and gripping and will appeal to those who like a page-turning plot with some social and political thinking driving it.
I’m delighted to host Liselotte, discussing gender and violence in Good Girls Don’t Tell.
2016. Half of the world’s population, women, are still being oppressed in countless ways. In many countries women are considered minors, they can´t vote, go to school, drive or even leave their home without the company of a male relative, in some countries a man can beat his wife, his sister or daughter without any consequences whatsoever. This is not news. But oppression is not only a problem for women in countries far away, it´s always, vibrating beneath the surface even in the UK or in Sweden, places that are actually considered to be two of the best countries for little girls to grow up.
In America, disillusioned white men and surprisingly even a large number of women have just elected their first sexist and misogynist President. In fact the newspapers report that one out of five Americans say they won´t vote for any woman whoever she might be. So it´s a fact folks, women are being oppressed everywhere, don´t ignore it, don´t pretend that it´s not a problem and that you don´t have to deal with it. We are all a part of this, and our children too.
The gruesome violence in my thriller Good Girls Don´t Tell might be horrifying, but the truth is that gender violence in real life is worse, considerably worse. Having a little girl myself I have thought a lot about her future in this world that no longer seems to be progressing very rapidly when it comes to women’s rights. I have thought of what I can do, if there are any organisations I might be able to join, but this isn´t the seventies and here in Sweden there a few, if any, left. I have come to the conclusion that the best thing to do right now is to enforce my daughter, to let her know that everything is possible even though she might need to work harder than any man to get what she wants in life. I can make her and her brother aware of what’s going on in this patriarchal society, and make them notice small things that can be important as well. Like for example in Sweden we usually name plastic toy figures ”little men” even though they might just as well be women. So oppression is seeping through society, even in the language when it is filled with words that makes men the norm. I believe we have a huge responsibility to teach our children to see these little things, to reveal the unpleasant truth so that they can react and slowly change the world by acting differently than earlier generations. They should never accept lower women’s wages, mistreatment, degrading language or gender based violence, which is the ultimate degradation.
My thriller Good Girls Don´t Tell is scary reading. Still it´s entertainment, as thrillers are. I asked myself if it was right to write about such brutal gender based violence and I came to the conclusion that it was. If we can´t talk or write about this kind of violence it somehow seems as if we accept it. It is like pulling down the blinds, and I want to keep my eyes open.
Huge thanks to Liselotte Roll for the guest post and to World Editions for the review copy. This post is part of a blog tour, see above for other sites to visit throughout the week.