Winter Grave by Helene Tursten

If you’re looking for an alternative to the hard-drinking, self-lacerating, morose detectives who dominate Scandinavian noir, Swedish cop Embla Nyström might be your girl. She was the Nordic light-welterweight boxing champion, won’t even touch coffee, hunts wild boar, and doesn’t turn inward much, though she’s had a difficult past. She is also an excellent detective who’s returning to work after a head injury that ended her boxing career.

Nyström’s skills are tested immediately when she, as part of a violent-crimes unit in Gothenberg, is called to the small harbor town of Strömstad to assist in solving a cluster of awful crimes that take place over the Christmas holidays. The local police department is overwhelmed, unable to discover any useful evidence and increasingly afraid that time has run out for two missing children. Swedish writer Helene Tursten expertly if somewhat matter-of-factly (though that may be due to the translation) sets up a tense situation that keeps Nyström and her colleagues chasing leads in punishing winter weather and struggling to connect the dots.