“STELLA Sandell is under reasonable suspicion for murder.”
They’re the words no parent contemplates ever having to hear: that courtroom proclamation by a stranger that a beloved child is facing one of the most serious charges imaginable.
For pastor Adam and criminal lawyer Ulrika, life in the southern Swedish university city of Lund has always been comfortingly unremarkable. White-collar professionals with an upper-class income and an easy-going, stable suburban lifestyle, the Sandells holiday abroad in winter, dine out regularly at their local Italian restaurant and enjoy cycling together along Lund’s cobble-stoned streets.
Stella has just completed her final year of high school, an occasionally tempestuous teenager employed part-time as a sales assistant at H&M as she saves for a long-awaited gap year in Asia.
Suddenly, though, over the course of only a few days the family’s world begins to unravel.
It starts with a missed work shift here, an early-hours arrival home from an evening out with her best friend there. Then Stella lists her brand-new pink Vespa scooter – an 18th-birthday gift from her mother and father – for sale online. This is a side of their daughter Adam and Ulrika don’t recognise.
But worse is to come. A phonecall late one Saturday night informs the couple that their little girl is being held in police custody, accused of having stabbed a prominent local businessman – the son of a well-known law professor, no less.
Surely Stella is no killer? Adam and Ulrika can’t conceive of a future with her in prison.
Yet unanswered questions begin to pile up, not least of all surrounding the fate of a piece of potential evidence: an apparently blood-spattered favourite shirt.
It’s a moral dilemma for the normally upstanding Sandells: exactly how far will the average person go, and what will they overlook, to defend someone they love?