Review: ‘A Nearly Normal Family’ by M. T. Edvardsson ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Every murder cases starts with a suspect.

What if the suspect was your daughter?

Would you believe her, or the evidence against her?

THE FATHER Believes his daughter has been framed.

THE MOTHER Believes she is hiding something.

THE DAUGHTER Believes they have no idea what she’s truly capable of…

There are three sides to the story. And the truth will shatter this family to pieces.

 

Thank you to NetGalley, Pan Macmillan and M. T. Edvardsson for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

“We were a perfectly ordinary family, and then everything changed.”

Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell is being held on suspicion of murder. Her father is sure she’s innocent. Her mother thinks there’s a chance she’s guilty.The evidence against her is mounting and yet her lips are sealed. Did she brutally stab Christopher Olsen in a fit of jealousy or is there another culprit out there? Why won’t she tell them where she was that night? Does she know what happened?

Told in three parts, each from the perspective of a different family member, each of our narrators are unreliable and leave us wondering which parts of their versions are true. The first part, which was narrated by the father, was probably the slowest and least enjoyable of them all for me. I think I just didn’t like him and quickly got the impression that despite being a pastor he was not practicing what he preached and was one of those who used their faith to excuse what they do wrong. I also found his spiraling unethical behaviour both idiotic and hypocritical. As a parent of teens I did understand some of his feelings and actions but something just never sat quite right with me and I had more empathy for his rebellious teenage daughter.

Part two was where this book became impossible to put down. Narrated by Stella, I was gripped by the raw honesty and saddened by how her parents let her down, didn’t seem to listen to her and see who she really is. Her father in particular seems only concerned with control and making Stella who he thinks she should be. There was one particular incident where I was enraged at how they handled things. They failed their daughter at the time in her life she needed them the most and I understood her rage towards them. Her conversations with her psychologist were fascinating and I liked the observations she made about how we can all find parts of ourselves in any psychological test we take. As Stella told the story of the night Chris was killed I was on tenterhooks for the reveal only to have it snatched away as the author then switched narrators for part three. A frustrating but fantastic move on his part in my opinion. I had so many questions by this point and had no idea what the truth was so I was left with no other option but to read furiously to the end for answers.

As we reached the final part where the mother, Ulrika narrates, it is time for the trial. Ulrika is a lawyer and we learn she has used her legal knowledge to concoct a plan with her daughter’s lawyer Michael. She talks a lot about her guilt at failing her daughter over the years. She had always struggled to be close to her daughter and focused on her career to alleviate the guilt she felt at being an inadequate parent. She’s clearly hoping that she has the chance to rectify these mistakes, if the mysterious plan works. She knows more about what happened that night than we’ve been led to believe and as we head towards the end of the book the bombshells are dropped in spectacular style and left me reeling. Ulrika’s apprehension in this part of the book was palpable and it was impossible not to get caught up in how she felt.

I have read a few books lately that tackle the question of what you would do if your child was accused of murder. This novel stands out among them as a captivating, ambiguous and twisting story about family, the secrets we keep and the lengths we’ll go to for those we love. I liked that each narrator was unreliable as it left you trying to figure out who is telling the truth as well as guessing how the story will end.

The author pulled off an amazing coupe de grâce with the way he ended this book. I loved how he pulled everything together and kept the reader on tenterhooks until the very end. A Nearly Normal Family is a brilliant piece of Scandinavian Noir that I recommend to anyone who loves thrillers.

Publications Day: July 11th.