Edwardson’s taut plot focuses on parallel tales, the alternating cases of Sweden’s Chief Inspector Erik Winter and African-Swedish Detective Aneta Djanali. Long after the memory has faded, Winter has been contacted by former lover Johanna Osvald, whose father has recently gone missing in Scotland. On a mission to discover the fate of his father, John, Axel Osvald has failed to contact his family, out of touch for so long that those at home in the fishing village have begun to worry.
Meanwhile, Aneta responds to a call reporting possible domestic abuse but experiences great difficulty from the start meeting with the victim, Anette Lindsten, for a formal interview. In what becomes a frustrating cat-and-mouse game with Anette’s husband and family members—none of them willing to assist the police--Djanali refuses to give up on her responsibility, stubbornly pursuing Anette from one residence to another to assess the level of threat to her person. The more the family obfuscates about the abuse and Anette’s location, the more determined Aneta becomes to find out what everyone is hiding.
Acting independently, both Winter and Djanali are connected through fellow detectives and the chain of command. Erik keeps tabs on Aneta’s progress while learning more about the Osvald family and the reason the elderly Osvald has gone to Scotland. A troubling scenario evolves: a wartime mystery born in a remote fishing village, secrets long kept and not easily retrieved from reluctant memories. With the assistance of a London detective with relatives in the Swedish village where Axel Osvald was last seen, Winter and the detective travel to a country where the past still lingers, remote villages barely changed over the years, a terrible truth yielding unexpected violence with a tragic result.
There is no lack of violence in the novel, though it is slow to arrive, brutality suggested by the landscape of a country hunkering down in cold weather under an oppressive cement-colored sky, as weighted with portent as the roiling sea. Winter intuits this dormant violence in the fishing village where he interviews the Osvalds, the harsh conditions of a life dependent on the bounty of the sea, family stories from World War II of missing men and lost ships. Aneta feels it as she rushes from place to place in search of her subject, a vague sense of threat following her.
Edwardson’s style gives his mystery great texture and a solid sense of place. The “stone sail” is reflected in a gloomy sky that matches the sea, a setting of extremes from Aneta’s reluctant victim and the threat to Aneta when she refuses to give up her pursuit to Erik’s meeting with the taciturn Osvald family in their fishing village, a culture born of hardship: “Fishermen are so strangely cut off from the usual human influences by their work.” The characters are further embellished by the author’s attention to their personal lives, from Winter’s love of jazz to Djanali’s preference for the rhythms of Africa. Richly atmospheric and idiosyncratically human, Sail of Stone is well worth reading.