Sweden, 1983. On a sweltering hot summer’s day, ex-police officer Ingrid Wolt walks out of prison, finally free after three years behind bars. The circumstances surrounding her time inside has forced her to sever all ties to her former life, and she must now make a fresh start where no one knows her name. The choice falls on Våmhus, a tiny rural town in the middle of Dalecarlia, an area rich in cultural heritage, farms, forests and lakes far from the bustle of the big city where she used to live.
Her young daughter Anna has been in foster care while she was in prison and Ingrid wants nothing more than to regain custody. But in order to do so, she must prove that she can make a living. Given her past, Ingrid can’t return to the force, but police work is the only thing she knows. And so, after several failed interviews for local jobs, she decides to set up practice as a private investigator.
Ingrid is soon contacted by the mother of a twelve year-old boy who disappeared one year earlier. Mattias is believed to have drowned, but his body was never found, and his mother is certain the police are wrong. Initial sleuthing convinces Ingrid that the local police have indeed carried out a sloppy investigation, and she becomes determined to get to the bottom of what really happened. Is there a killer walking the streets of this idyllic small town? While scratching the polished surface of the close-knit community, Ingrid unearths multiple sinister secrets – darkness hiding in plain sight.
At the same time, Ingrid fears that her ex – also a police officer – the violent father of her daughter and the reason she ended up in prison, is out to get her. When she runs into Benny, an old love interest and former colleague of hers from Stockholm, she is glad to have found a confidante inside the police – but she also realizes her identity is at risk of being exposed. Ingrid has a creeping sense that the threat is drawing nearer, is she safe in Våmhus?
In this first installment of a planned new series, Ninni Schulman delivers a captivating and multifaceted new heroine: Ingrid Wolt. By flashing back and telling the story of Mattias’s last summer, she also captures the agonizing dynamics of pre-teen years and the claustrophobia of small-town communities.
A master of slow-building suspense and delicately wrought characters, bestselling writer Ninni Schulman takes readers back to the 1980’s – a time at once nostalgic and exotic, before cell phones and social media – where police work had a more hands-on directness. Equal parts suspenseful whodunnit and poignant coming-of-age story, The Way We Played looks deep into the heart of loss while also laying bare the fateful ripple effects of the decisions we make to save the ones we love.
“The Way We Played is an astonishingly gifted introduction to something new.”
Dagens Nyheter (SE)
“Ninni Schulman gives us a splendid start to the crime fiction year with her crime novel The Way We Played. Refreshing and classic with a twist, childhood nostalgia and at the same time harrowing darkness. Schulman masterfully breathes new life into the private investigator genre through her new protagonist, ex-police officer Ingrid Wolt. […] The skillful and believable alternation between Ingrid’s investigation and the portrayal of Mattias’s last days lead to a thrilling resolution. […] The series about Ingrid Wolt has top tier potential.”
Skånska Dagbladet (SE)
“Over the past decade, Ninni Schulman has published numerous crime novels set in a police environment. Many readers have surely followed her characters with increasing suspense. And she is truly skilled with her pen! In her latest novel, The Way We Played, she takes us to Dalecarlia in the 1980s. A time when calls were made from phone booths using coins, and where you sat in car seats made of scorching hot vinyl. A young boy disappears without a trace. One year later a police officer who has been in prison for shooting at a wife-beater, takes on the case more or less by chance. As the investigation delves deeper, the seemingly idyllic façade of Dalecarlia begins to crack, without ever becoming overdramatic or implausible. Schulman takes her time portraying both teenagers and adults as thinking, sentient people. Slowly she gives her characters both flesh and spirit, and as a reader I find it increasingly difficult to put the book down. Her ability to get under the skin of young teenagers who are in a state of emotional turmoil is noteworthy. Schulman cares about her characters and as a reader I also begin to feel compassion for them. A good grade for a crime novel.”
“This novel leaves several strong points to discover before arriving at the sad resolution and the dramatic cliffhanger that preludes the sequel. Schulman’s writing is as always character driven in an impressive way; many credibly complex people emerge from her words, likely even better than she has ever done before. Reading a work by an author who is continually evolving is a treat, making it difficult to imagine anything other than that this new book, and series, will reach even greater success than her previous novels.”
“Ninni Schulman’s Hagfors Series was good, but in this new series she has become even better. The book is about the relationships between people, but not just the obvious ones within families and between close friends. Instead, she carefully lays bare a whole community, where every meeting can affect the course of events. The portraits of the children’s development and their fragile friendships are central to the story, and on the periphery are the adults, who are hardly more reliable.”
Lotta Olsson, Dagens Nyheter (SE)
“Schulman is a skilled storyteller who through her language gives every scene a strong presence. Scents of Swedish summer and a time gone by rise from the pages of the book while the plot thickens. I am the same age as the author and there are many well-placed details that are pure madeleine cakes of childhood’s eternal summer holidays, when telephones were attached to the wall by a cord and the bicycle was the way to freedom. In flashbacks, we follow Mattias and his friends in the weeks leading up to his disappearance, and here Schulman shows a particular sensitivity to the vulnerable relationships that come with this age. After a dramatic ending, there is no doubt that a sequel awaits – which we are thankful for.”
“[The Way We Played] grabs a hold of me, I was deeply touched. You follow a mother in despair, who has lost her child, and people who have kept secrets, and I get to take part in that. And the unexpected solutions! […] Very beautiful.”
Titti Schultz, Go’ Kväll SVT
“In The Way We Played, Ninni Schulman once again shows what a remarkable storyteller she is! This is an absorbing read and a captivating page-turner about normal people who you quickly feel for. It’s very lucky that this is the first part of the Siljan Series because I immediately want to read more! […] Ninni Schulman impresses again and again by creating a believable environment where interesting details are sprinkled out in just the right dose. The suspense increases as we get to know the characters more and as the plot thickens and the idyll begins to crack.”
Agneta Norrgård, P4 Västernorrland
“Female Swedish crime writers are thick on the ground, many are mediocre and many series are stuck in a rut… imagine the surprise then when Ninni Schulman manages to both surprise and impress with her new venture. […] This is so good! First of all, Ninni Schulman has made the clever choice of setting the story in the 1980s, which allows her to avoid dealing with mobile phones and computers – her characters have to rely on landlines and letters in the mailbox. But it also places the plot in a time when twelve-year-old boys didn’t spend their lives in front of screens and instead built tree houses, listened to the Smurfs, and bicycled around causing mischief in the village while waiting for this week’s episode of Hajk to start on the CRT TV at home. In addition, it’s thrilling and unpredictable. Schulman skillfully paints the picture of a Dalecarlia-idyll that cracks precariously when the newly minted private detective begins to pry into people’s secrets and causes the reader’s suspicions to wander in all directions at once. […] The level of nostalgia is sky-high and possibly The Way We Played is a book that is best suited for those of us who played – or had children who played – in the eighties. But on the other hand, there are many of us!”
Alingsås Tidning (SE)
“I began to lose faith in literature, but Ninni Schulman gave me my faith back and with gusto. Her new book, The Way We Played, the first installment of the Siljan Series, is a homerun. I think I’ve already listened to the best book of the year and January hasn’t even ended. I remember how I whined in last week’s article about how I have chosen the wrong books lately, books I haven’t been fond of. But Ninni Schulman! All I have to say is Ninni Schulman! […] It is a story filled with exciting but also ordinary characters, it takes place out on the countryside, it is the 1980s and we, who were there, can feel a pinch of nostalgia. There is a creeping suspense throughout and many potential people who could have been involved in the disappearance of Mattias. I can really see how this could be turned into a film. What a triumf. Ninni Schulman, this is so good that I don’t know how I will ever again think that any other suspense is good. I already look forward to part two with Ingrid Wolt.”
“The basic story is not new, but in Ninni Schulman’s hands there is no repetition. Even the eerie parts can feel fresh. The characters are deeply portrayed. It’s easy to symphatize with those who are victims in one way or another. Mattias and his family. Ingrid’s attempts to get in touch with her daughter. It’s a book about regret and guilt that also has a highly credible dialogue. To be able to write about such a fantastic book as the first one from 2023 feels like a privilege.”
Dast Magazine (SE)