Authors: Ake Edwardson
Åke Edwardson was born in 1953. He has
worked as a journalist and as a press officer
for the UN, and has written books on
journalism and creative writing. Now a
professor at Gothenburg University, he is
also a prize-winning author, both for his
best-selling detective novels and for his books
for children. He has on three occasions been
awarded the Swedish Crime Writers' Award
for best crime novel.
Laurie Thompson was editor of
1983–2002 and has translated
many books from Swedish, including novels
by Henning Mankell, Håkan Nesser and
ALSO BY ÅKE EDWARDSON
Sun and Shadow
TRANSLATED FROM THE SWEDISH BY
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Published by Vintage 2008
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
Copyright © Åke Edwardson 2001
English translation copyright © Laurie Thompson 2007
Åke Edwardson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs
and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work
This electronic book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
First published with the title
Himlen är en plats på jorden
by Norstedts, Stockholm
First published in Great Britain in 2007 by
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road
London SW1V 2SA
Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited can be
The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009
A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library
One of the children jumped down from the climbing
frame into the sandpit below, and he laughed out loud,
suddenly, briefly. It looked like good fun. He wanted to
join in, but that would mean getting out of his car,
walking round the fence and in through the gate, and
climbing up the frame, which was red and yellow.
A drop of rain fell on the window, then another. He
looked up and could see the sky was darker now.
He turned his attention back to the playground and the
trees beyond it and along the left-hand side. There were
no leaves on the branches, the trees were naked. Things
you couldn't see in the summer were visible now. The
city was naked. That thought had struck him as he
drove there through the wet streets. This city is naked
again. He didn't like it. It was almost worse than before.
Now another child jumped down. He could hear the
boy laughing as he lay in the sand, he could hear that
even when the radio was on, as it was now. He wasn't
listening to it. He was listening to the boy's laughter.
He was laughing himself now. He wasn't happy, but he
was laughing because, hearing the child laughing, it
sounded so much fun to be a child getting up to climb
the frame and jump down once more.
It stopped raining even before it had really started.
He wound the window down a bit more. There was a
smell of autumn turning into winter. Nothing else smelled
like it. Leaves lay on the ground and had turned black.
People were walking along paths through the park. Some
were pushing prams. A few people were standing around
in the playground, grown-ups. There weren't many of
them. But lots of children, and many of them were
He had also laughed, not now, but when he was a
child. He could remember laughing once when his mum
had lifted him up high and his head had caught the
ceiling lamp and there had been a light up there that
had gone out when she put him down again.
Somebody said something on the radio. He didn't
hear what, as he was still in a land where he was a
small boy who'd come down to the ground again and
his mum had said something that he could no longer
remember; he couldn't remember any of it, but she had
said something and afterwards he had spent a long time
thinking about what she had said, how important it was
to him, those last words she had said to him before
walking out of the door, never to come back.
She never, ever came back.
He could feel his cheek was wet, like the windscreen
would have been if it had continued raining. He heard
himself saying something now but didn't know what it
He looked back at the children.
He could see the room again. It was later but he was
still a small boy; he sat looking out of the window and
there was rain on the window pane and he'd made a
drawing of the trees outside that didn't have any leaves
left. His mum was standing beside the trees. If he drew
a car, she was inside it. A horse, and she was riding it.
A little child, and she was holding its hand. They were
walking on grass where red and yellow flowers were
He drew the fields. He drew an ocean on the other
side of the fields.
Every night he made a bed for his mum. He had a
little sofa in his bedroom and he made her a bed on
it, with a blanket and a pillow. If she suddenly appeared
she'd be able to sleep there. Just lie down without him
needing to get the bed things ready, it would be all
Now he wound the window right down and took a
deep breath. Wound it up again and started the engine
and drove round the playground so that he could park
immediately outside the entrance. He opened the door.
There were several other cars around. He could hear
the children's voices now, as if they were actually inside
his car. As if they'd come to his car, to him.
There was music on the radio now, and that voice
he recognised came back and said something. It was a
voice he'd heard several times. It spoke when he drove
back from work at the end of the day. Sometimes he
drove at night.
He could feel how wet the ground was under his feet.
He was standing beside his car but didn't know how
he'd got there. It was strange: he'd thought about the
radio and then suddenly he'd been standing beside the
Children's laughter again.
He was standing beside the playground that was next
to the trees that no longer had any leaves, only bare
The video camera in his hand was hardly any bigger
than a cigarette packet. A little bit bigger, perhaps.
Amazing what they could make nowadays. He could
hardly hear the faint hiss when he pressed the button
and filmed what he could see.
He moved closer. There were children all around but
he couldn't see a single grown-up just then. Where were
all the grown-ups? The children couldn't manage on
their own, they might get hurt when they jumped down
from the red and yellow climbing frame or fell off the
The climbing frame was right here, next to the
entrance. He was standing by it.
Laughter. He laughed again himself, jumped, no, but
he could have jumped. He helped the little boy to his
feet. Up again, up, up! Lift him up to the sky!
He took it from his pocket and held it out. Look
what I've got here.
It was three paces to the entrance. Then four more
to the car. The boy's steps were shorter, six to the
entrance and eight to the car.
Children, children everywhere; it struck him that he
was the only one who could see the boy now, keep an
eye on him. The grown-ups were standing over there
with their coffee cups making steam in the air that was
cold and damp, just like the ground.
Several cars. The boy couldn't be seen at all now, not
from any direction. Only
could see him, he was
holding his hand now.
'There we are. Yes, I've got a whole bag full, how
about that? So, let's open the door. Can you climb in
all by yourself? You
* * *
The back of the student's head had been struck in such
a way that the wound looked like a cross, or something
very similar. His hair had been shaved off, making the
wound all the more visible. It was horrific, but he was
still alive. Only just; but he had a chance.
As they left the hospital, Bertil Ringmar's face looked
blue, thanks to the lights in the entrance hall.
'I thought you ought to see that,' said Ringmar.
'What weapon would make that kind of wound?'
'Some sort of pickaxe. Maybe an agricultural implement.
A kitchen utensil. A gardening tool. I don't know,
'There's something about it, I don't know. It reminds
me of something.'
Winter zapped the doors of his Mercedes. The car
park was deserted. The car lights flashed like a warning.
'We'd better have a word with our yokel,' said Winter
as they drove down the hill.
'Don't make fun of it.'
'Make fun of it? What is there to make fun of?'
Ringmar made no reply. Linnéplatsen was just as
deserted as the car park had been a few moments back.
'This is the third one,' said Ringmar.
Winter nodded, loosened his tie and unfastened the
top two buttons of his shirt.
'Three youths more or less battered to death with
something, but we can't work out what,' said Ringmar.
'Three students.' He turned to look at Winter. 'Is there
'You mean the fact that they're all students? Or that
we think the wounds look like a cross?'
'That they're all students,' said Ringmar.
'Students form a big category,' said Winter, continuing
in a westerly direction. 'There must be thirty-five
thousand of them in this city.'
'Plenty of people to make friends with, even if they
only mix with their own kind,' said Winter.
Ringmar drummed his fingers on the armrest. Winter
turned off the main thoroughfare and drove north. The
streets grew narrower, the houses bigger.
'A pickaxe,' said Ringmar. 'Who wanders around
with a pickaxe on a Saturday night?'
'I daren't even think about it,' said Winter.
'Were you a student here in Gothenburg?'
'What did you read?'
'Prudence. Then I packed it in.'
'Introduction to Jurisprudence. But I dropped it, like
'Imprudence follows Prudence,' said Ringmar.
'Ha, ha,' said Winter.
'I was a student of life myself,' said Ringmar.
'Where do you study that? And when do you qualify
for a degree in it?'
Ringmar gave a snort.
'You're right, Erik. A student of life is examined all
the time. Continuous assessment.'
Ringmar didn't reply. Winter slowed down.
'If you turn right here, you'll avoid that awkward
junction,' said Ringmar.
Winter did as he'd been advised, made his way past
a couple of parked cars and pulled up outside a timberclad
detached house. The inside lights cast a faint glow
over the lawn and between the maples that reached up
to the sky like human limbs.
'Why don't you come in for a late-night sandwich?'
Winter looked at his watch.
'Is Angela waiting up for you with oysters and wine?'
'It's not quite the season yet,' said Winter.
'I expect you'll want to say good night to Elsa?'
'She'll be fast asleep by now,' said Winter. 'OK, I'll
have a bite to eat. Have you got any south Slovakian
Ringmar was rummaging in the fridge as Winter came
up from the cellar, carrying three bottles.
'I think I only have Czech pilsner, I'm afraid,' said
Ringmar over his shoulder.
'I'll forgive you,' said Winter, reaching for the bottle
'Smoked whitefish and scrambled egg?' Ringmar
suggested, examining what was in the fridge.
'If we've got time,' said Winter. 'It takes ages to make
decent scrambled egg. Have you got any chives, by the
Ringmar smiled and nodded, carried the ingredients
over to the work surface and got started. Winter sipped
his beer. It was good, chilled without being cold. He
took off his tie and hung his jacket over the chair back.
His neck felt stiff after a long day. A student of life.
Continuous assessment. He could see the student's face
in his mind's eye, then the back of his head. A law
student, just like he'd been once. If I'd stuck with it I
could have been Chief of Police now, he thought, taking
another sip of beer. That might have been better.
Protected from the streets. No bending over bodies with
shattered limbs, no new holes, no blood, no wounds in
the shape of a cross.
'The other two don't have an enemy in the world,'
said Ringmar from the stove, where he was stirring the
egg mix with a wooden fork.
'I beg your pardon?'
'The other two victims who survived with the crossshaped
wounds on their heads. Not an enemy in the
world, they reckon.'
'That goes with being young,' said Winter. 'Not
having an enemy in the world.'
'You're young yourself,' said Ringmar, lifting up the
cast-iron pan. 'Do you have any enemies?'
'Not a single one,' said Winter. 'You make enemies
later on in life.'
Ringmar put the finishing touches to the open sandwiches.
'We should really have a drop of schnapps with this,'
'I can always take a taxi home.'
'Right, that's settled then,' said Ringmar, going to
fetch the hard stuff.
'The same man was responsible for all the attacks,' said
Ringmar. 'What's he after?'
'Satisfaction from causing injury,' said Winter,
draining the last of his second schnapps and shaking
his head when Ringmar lifted the bottle.
'But not any old how,' said Ringmar.
'Nor any old victim.'
'Hmm. You could be right.'
'We'll have to hear what this lad has to say tomorrow,'
'Attacked from behind in an unlit street. He saw
nothing, heard nothing, said nothing, knows nothing.'
'Pia Fröberg will have to make an extra effort to help
us with the weapon,' said Ringmar.
Winter could see the forensic pathologist's pale, tense
face in his mind's eye. Once upon a time they'd been
an item, or something pretty close to that. All forgiven,
forgotten and in the past now. No hard feelings.
'Always assuming that will help,' Ringmar added,
gazing down into his beer glass.
They heard the front door open and shut, and a shout
from a female voice.
'We're in here,' Ringmar informed her.
His daughter came in, still wearing her anorak. As
dark as her father, almost as tall, same nose, same eyes
focused on Winter.
'Erik needed a bit of company,' said Ringmar.
'Pull the other one,' she said, reaching out her hand.
Winter shook it.
'Well, do you still recognise Moa?' asked Ringmar.
'Haven't seen you for ages,' said Winter. 'Let's see,
you must be . . .'
'Twenty-five,' said Moa Ringmar. 'Well on the way
to being a pensioner, and still living at home. What do
you say to that?'
'You could say that Moa's in between flats at the
moment,' Ringmar explained.
'It's the times we live in,' said Moa. 'Fledglings always
return to the nest.'
'That's nice,' said Winter.
'Bullshit,' said Moa.
'OK,' said Winter.
She sat down.
'Any beer left for me?'
Ringmar fetched her a glass and poured out what
was left of the third bottle.
'I gather there's been another assault,' she said.
'Where did you hear that?' wondered Ringmar.
'At the department. He's a student there. Name of
Jakob, I'm told.'
'Do you know him?'