Kate Jackson drew my attention to Maria Lang (1914-1991) a few weeks ago in her review of No More Murders!, one of three Lang books translated into English. See https://crossexaminingcrime.wordpress.com/2020/06/16/swedens-agatha-christie-no-more-murders-1951-by-maria-lang-trans-by-joan-tate/. Lang was one of the original members of the Swedish crime writers association Svenska Deckarakademin and helped popularize the detective novel in Sweden. See more about her in this translated entry from the Swedish Women’s Biographical Dictionary https://skbl.se/en/article/DagmarLangeMariaLang.
Anyone described as the equal of Agatha Christie has my immediate attention so I found an appallingly worn and stained copy of another title on ThriftBooks and dove into it upon its arrival. A Wreath for the Bride (Regnery, 1968), translated by Joan Tate from the Swedish original published in 1960, was also made into a film in 1961 and in 2013. It is one episode of the Swedish television drama series Crimes of Passion, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04gv3yq. It is the ninth of some 40 novels Lang wrote, mostly detective novels featuring Puck Bure and Christer Wijk.
The town of Skoga is atwitter with excitement on a June Friday as Anneli Hammar is to marry Joakim Cruse tomorrow. Anneli is a well-known resident who grew up in the town and Cruse is a wealthy bachelor who moved to the area a few months earlier. It’s considered by everyone an excellent match. Anneli visits the florist to see her bridal bouquet with her best friend Dina waiting for her outside. When Anneli does not emerge in a few minutes, Dina enters the shop to learn what is keeping her. The store owner denies that Anneli was ever there. Bewildered, Dina notifies Anneli’s mother that her daughter has disappeared. The town’s rumor mill explodes.
Christer Wijk is home for the wedding, as his mother is Anneli’s godmother. He is promptly pulled into the search, working with the local police. Anneli’s body appears on a beach near her home on Sunday morning. Instead of attending the town’s social event of the season, Christer goes back to work at his usual job as a State police detective, trying to figure out where Anneli was between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning and how she left the shop with no one seeing her.
Lang indeed has similarities to Christie. Her Skoga is the Swedish equivalent of St. Mary Mead, where everyone knows everyone else. Many of the characters are instantly recognizable as ordinary small town denizens. And the scene at the end where all of the suspects are gathered while the detective reveals the murderer is pure Christie.
However, Christie would never have deployed gender politics in her plots as brazenly as Lang does. Without giving it away, I can say that relationships are the major plot driver, which is quite unlike Christie. Contemporary reviewers criticized Lang for her focus on romance instead of logic and I can see their point. This interest seems to be an ingrained part of Lang’s character: Her doctoral thesis outed a Swedish philosopher and her first novel was nearly not published because of the lesbian relationship it depicted.
The bride’s wreath is also quite important to the plot. It is unusually made up of lilies of the valley, a beautiful flower but one I always thought too fragile to use in formal arrangements. There’s a long poem about lilies of the valley in the book. I have been unable to determine if Lang wrote it for the story or it is quoted from some other author.
Overall, an intriguing story with a surprisingly dark theme. I am sorry so few of Lang’s books have been translated into English. Print copies are hard to find and expensive but the ebook versions are quite affordable.