THE COLD SONG - Linn Ullman


Book Review by Thor A. Larsen 

As with ‘Stella Descending’, there is a tragedy that happens early in the book and Ms. Ullmann teases the reader throughout the book as to who caused this tragedy. Unfortunately, the author leaves the reader to wonder which one of a number of potential culprits caused the tragedy.  The tragedy was that Milla, a summer nanny for Siri and Jon to care for their two children, was killed, and then discovered by two boys buried in a shallow grave. As the story unfolds, the bulk of the story occurs two years before the body discovery.

Siri is an owner of two restaurants, one in Oslo and one on the island, where she and family spend the summer. Jon is a writer. The children are Alma and Liv. Their nanny, Milla, was an attractive girl of 19. Jon, in addition to being a writer, enjoyed his freedom to wander and had a roaming eye and a number of liaisons. Of course, with a young attractive ‘nanny’ in the house, and there evolved mutual interests between Jon and Milla.

Due to Jon’s infidelities over the years and his ‘interest’ in Milla, serious tensions between Siri and Jon simply increased.  Siri and her mother, Jenny, the owner of a big estate on the island, had a long-term tensions stemming from a childhood tragedy death of Siri’s younger brother when she was four years old. 


Siri planned the party for many people at her mother’s estate, however, the mother did not want the party, causing her to drink heavily and take the car our drunk with her granddaughter in the car.

As we tried to decipher who killed Milla the night of the party, there were a number of possibilities. One, was it the boy she met at a local pub after she left the party. Or perhaps Jenny, when driving intoxicated, likely striking Milla while she was walking home from the pub.  Perhaps, Jenny’s caretaker, Irma buried the body after the accident as Irma was very good at ‘caring’ for Jenny in every aspect of her life.  Then, Jon had some texts with Milla late in the evening and had been out walking his dog. Or, could it be Siri, who did not like Milla at all because she had been flirting with her husband.

Linn Ullmann develops the personalities of each of the main characters very crisply and their relationships with each other and with Milla. It is the reader’s task to surmise the culprit. So, you rush through the book thinking who committed the crime and, you will be very surprised at the ending.