“The Rival” by Sandra Gustafsson is a mystery-thriller about manipulation, jealousy, and revenge. Tobias has always desperately wanted everything that his older brother Joakim had. This included their mother’s love, the respect of his father, his grandfather’s house and finally, the love of Joakim’s girlfriend, Sara. Sara is easy to seduce because her relationship with Joakim is not as perfect as it appears to be. When Tobias convinces Sara to move in with Joakim for his own selfish reasons, she reluctantly agrees. So desperate for Tobias’ love, Sara will agree to almost anything. Tobias on the other hand, seems to be more interested in using Sara as a pawn in his game of revenge against his brother, than loving her.
When Joakim is found murdered in his home, the police have to solve the mystery of who-did-it. Tobias has managed to hide his relationship with Sara from others thus far by using disposable phones and making secret visits. He insists that Sara is a stalker with whom he had sex with once. Sara insists that she has a relationship with Tobias, and that they had a plan to get the house from Joakim, but the plan never involved his murder.
As both people recollect what supposedly happened to Joakim, their own pasts are opened up. Tobias frequently goes back into time and remembers when his mother spurned his love in favor of his brother’s. As Sara recollects, the reader sees that things were not only bad with Joakim, but she also experienced violence at the hands of Tobias. Desperate for his love, she tolerated the worst kind of abuse from Tobias. Tobias and Joakim really aren’t that different from each other, but Sara doesn’t appear to realize this truth.
Police investigator Jonah has to listen to both sides of the story to help solve this murder. Without much evidence, he must decide if Sara is really a stalker capable of murder, or if Tobias is the murderer. The rivals’ mother seems to already have her mind made up. There is another surprise in the story that throws a glitch into the matter; this surprise might help answer a lot of questions. The readers most follow the story all the way to the end to discover the truth.
“The Rival” by Sandra Gustafsson is an excellent suspenseful mystery. As a reader, I found myself caught up in trying to understand why the characters evolved in the ways that they did. It was fascinating to see the selfishness of the brother who had it all. The desperate greed faced by the lesser brother did not do anything to work in his favor, nor did it motivate him to try to earn recognition through strength of character and hard work. The mother’s love for one son and disdain for the other was also hard to understand because he was an innocent child when this began. Then there is the girlfriend, who allows herself not only to betray a man that she once loved, but also be so desperate to be with a man, she would put up with any kind of abuse. Readers will definitely enjoy this complex novel!