A Nearly Normal Family
by M.T. Edvardsson
Publication Date : June 25, 2019
Synopsis From Publisher:
Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost fifteen years her senior. She is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him?
Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defense attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. Told in an unusual three-part structure, A Nearly Normal Familyasks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect them?
Books which present the ideal family or the perfect couple, but hint at just beneath the surface drama - are awesome! I love trying to figure out who is having an affair with whom. Is the husband the biological father of the child? Is the husband or wife really who they say they are? Is someone being abused? I started A Nearly Normal Family assuming it would be the type story loaded with secrets, lies, and betrayals. Indeed it is, but it is also so much more…
Appearances can be deceiving, especially if you are looking at the Sandell family. Adam - a pastor in the local church, Ulrika - a successful defense attorney, and Stella - your average eighteen year old just starting out in the world. When Christopher Olsen is found murdered in a playground, Stella is arrested for his murder. Stella and Christopher have no links to each other. Adam and Ulrika are shocked and believe their daughter is innocent. As the trial looms ahead, Adam’s and Ulrika’s ethics are tested in every way. Raising the question is there such a thing as “going too far” when it comes to protecting your child?
A Nearly Normal Family is a crime fiction story, but it is also an examination of morals. To protect their daughter Adam and Stella both go against everything they believe in, professionally and personally. Adam breaks a few commandments while Ulrika dances extremely close to misconduct. Edvardsson walks readers through Adam’s and Ulrika’s thought process after Stella’s arrest. The shock, anger, fear, and doubt. In most publicized murder cases, the accused is supported by his/her family. The belief in their loved ones innocence unwavering despite mounting evidence. When I hear or read of these cases I always wonder if they ever doubt the innocence of their loved one. Edvardsson gives what I think is the most honest answer to this question. Guilt or innocence does not matter, it’s only about protecting their family.
When I started A Nearly Normal Family I assumed the story would be completely about the Sandell family and their secrets. It is, but Edvardsson takes care not to go too far into character development, only giving info which could possibly explain Stella’s arrest and Christopher’s murder. While the lack of character development may be an issue for some readers, I quite enjoyed Edvardsson’s singular focus on solving the crime.
The story is told from three perspectives; Stella, Ulrika, and Adam. Each perspective features flash backs to events leading up to Stella’s arrest then seamlessly transitions to the ongoing trial. There are also scenes from Stella’s trial for those of us who love courtroom theatrics.
A Nearly Normal Family sets itself apart from traditional Scandinavian crime fiction. While it lacks violence and brutality, there is no shortage of grit, suspense, and complexity. A Nearly Normal Family is Edvardsson’s first book published in the U.S. ; I doubt it will be his last.
*Thanks to Celadon Books for my free review copy of A Nearly Normal Family*
Murder and Moore Rating :
5 out of 5 Stars