In 1986 a girl is ritualistically killed as a sacrifice to the Green Man, a ghostly rider to hail the beginning of spring. In the present day, David and his wife Thea return to the castle where he grew up. She discovers information about the girl that causes her to address the trauma in her own past…
Rites of Spring is a dual timeline book showing the present day and 1986. It is set in Sweden and was originally published in Swedish as the first of four novels about the seasons.
There are plenty of mysteries in the book to sustain interest. Firstly is the legend of the Green Man and Elita’s death in 1986. Then in the present we have David’s reluctance to talk about the past. Finally we have Thea’s own past and who is the mysterious Margaux she ‘speaks’ to at the start of the chapters from her viewpoint.
The personal relationship between David and Thea is harbouring secrets. She is traumatised by her experiences of a war zone while he has been forced to return home following the collapse of his business. David refuses to talk about Elita’s death but Thea is tenacious in wanting to find the truth.
The descriptions of the location are vivid and brought the Swedish setting to life. I did allow myself to get a little bogged down with pronunciation of names and places but this was not a barrier to enjoying the book. I am interested in the superstitions of Sweden based on this book as it is not something I have any prior knowledge of. Googling The Green Man, I see it is a pagan concept in many European cultures.
Rites of Spring is a Scandi thriller about change and secrets with an interesting narrative structure. I liked the chapters from Elita’s perspective to show us events of the past and make her character more human rather than just a victim.
Southern Sweden: Beautiful countryside, endless forests, coastal walks, dark days – and even darker nights. But beneath the beauty lies a dark heart . . .
Skåne, 1986: On the night of Walpurgis, the eve of May Day, where bonfires are lit to ward off evil spirits and preparations are made to celebrate the renewal of spring, a sixteen-year-old girl is ritualistically murdered in the woods beside a castle. Her stepbrother is convicted of the terrible deed and shortly after, the entire family vanishes without a trace.
Spring, 2019: Dr Thea Lind moves into the castle. After making a strange discovery in an ancient oak tree on the grounds, her fascination with the old tragedy deepens. As she uncovers more and more similarities between her own troubled past and the murdered girl, she begins to believe that the real truth of the killing was never uncovered.
What if the spring of 1986 claimed more than one victim?
About the Author
ANDERS DE LA MOTTE is the bestselling author of the ‘Seasons Quartet’; the first three books of which – End of Summer, Deeds of Autumn and Dead of Winter – have all been number one bestsellers in Sweden and have been shortlisted for the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award for Best Crime Novel of the Year. Anders, a former police officer, has already won a Swedish Academy Crime Award for his debut, Game, in 2010 and his second standalone, The Silenced, in 2015.
To date, the first three books in the ‘Seasons Quartet’ have published over half a million copies, with the fourth, Rites of Spring, publishing in Sweden in 2020. Set in southern Sweden, all four books can be read as standalones.