I am struck by how many second books in a series are set in the opposite season to the first — among those I've read, at any rate. I've recently finished Ann Cleeves's second Shetland Islands/Jimmy Perez novel, White Nights, for example, which is set in midsummer. In these northern climes, daylight never really ends; in an understated way the novel is permeated by the effect on the characters, who are overtired and internally disturbed by the lack of night's blackout. The first novel in the series, Raven Black, was set in the opposite season, where the metaphorical and literal darkness formed the contextual atmosphere for events.
This contrast of darkness with light (as John Harvey called one of his recent novels) is by no means unusual. The first two of Ake Edwardson's Chief Inspector Winter series do the same thing. Sun and Shadow took place in seedy, snow-ridden Stockholm (though there is a sunny Spanish interlude); its follow-up, Never End, was set in the intense heat of the Swedish holiday season. The next in the series, Frozen Tracks, I haven't read, but from the title it is going to be a return to the winter I imagine.
Asa Larsson's brilliant debut The Savage Altar (known to me as Sun Storm) is another winter chill story, as Rebecka Martinsson visits her childhood home in the dead of winter and uncovers a lot of nasty secrets buried in the snowdrifts. The second book, The Blood Spilt, takes place eighteen months later, starting out at Rebecka's law firm's midsummer party and describing events of that season.
Mari Jungstedt has also taken this route. Her highly recommended debut novel, Unseen, is set on the (Swedish, again) holiday island of Gotland in the summer; one of the angles is the pressure on the police to solve the crime quickly to protect the island's main revenue, its tourist trade. The follow-up, the equally good Unspoken, is set at the fag-end of the holiday season, and the colder climate is an apt setting for the bleakest of the novel's plot threads.
I am sure there must be other cases of alternating seasonal background, or perhaps it is just chance that I've come across so many of them in the past year or so of reading. Maybe it is a device that appeals to those writing about the North?
Following from Kerrie's lead, I'll pick out some other reading-related posts from Petrona since the last Sunday Salon, for readers who don't follow the blog through the week, in case they are of interest:
- Only four of twenty finalists on the longlist for the Theakston's crime-fiction prize are women. I provide some suggestions that I feel would and, in some cases, should have passed the peer-review stage.
- If you are reviewing a book, read it first, or else you are worms on toast.
- Even half a sequel is too much for readers as far as the DaVinci Code is concerned.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica opens up to bloggers.
- A week's round-up of reviews and other book news.
- Finally, as picked up by The Guardian, the British Library has become too groovy for scholarship.
(You can follow the links above or just scroll down.)