by Craig Larsen
The Second Winter is a harrowing tale of survival in desperate circumstances. Set on a bleak farm in Jutland during the Second World War, when Denmark was under Nazi occupation, the coarse, brutish, yet enigmatic father of two, Fredrik Gregersen, must supplement his income in order to feed his children and addictions. This he does by smuggling Jewish refugees into neutral Sweden.
In Poland, a beautiful Jewish girl is abducted and taken to Copenhagen where she is forced into prostitution. When Fredrik seizes a bag filled with precious jewels from a terrified family fleeing the Germans, he does not know it contains something that will indelibly link his and her fates. This is merely the beginning of a complex, bloody, decades-long series of events.
Born in 1963, the author, Craig Larsen is a single father currently residing in Northern California, having earlier lived in Europe and New York. His first novel, Mania, published in 2009, involved a serial killer terrorising the streets of Seattle, and was described by the popular British crime writer, Lee Child as “everything a great thriller should be.” His latest has already won the National Indie Excellence Award 2017 for Literary Fiction and was a Bronze Winner in the Foreword INDIES 2016, War & Military.
He begins his story in East Berlin in 1969, before taking us back in time to Kraków in 1938 and then to Denmark in 1941. We move seamlessly between times and countries following a thread that will eventually tie the various narratives together.
In his Acknowledgements, Larsen reveals that his story is a “metaphor” for what it means to be a father, and insists it’s not a tale based on any particular country or person – although he admits that his vicious protagonist was fashioned to some extent from vaguely recalled anecdotes about his father’s uncle, who was, apparently, “a brute and a member of the Danish resistance during World War II.”
The Second Winter is a stark, unpretentious retelling of one of Denmark’s darkest periods in history, which is at times gruesome and unpleasant. It will undoubtedly appeal to readers of gritty noir wartime thrillers.
Many thanks to Other Press for gifting an advance review copy of this title.