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Archive for the ‘Scandinavian writers’ Tag

Cold Crime   Leave a comment

 

The Ice Princess (Fjällbacka Series #1)

Camilla Lackberg’s The Ice Princess is my recent discovery in Scandinavian crime genre. She’s touted as Sweden’s version of Agatha Christie. While I might not go that far, I did enjoy the mystery set in Fjallbacka, a Swedish fishing village turned tourist community north of Goteborg.

It’s no surprise that within the first few pages a body, an apparent suicide, is discovered. The twists come in the form of small town connections. Erica, the second (living) person on the scene is a childhood friend of the victim, Alex. The two had lost touch with one another long ago, but Erica has fond memories of their friendship.

Erica, an author of biographies, is asked by Alex’s parents to write what amounts to an expanded obituary. They are convinced Alex did not kill herself. The more Erica learns of her estranged friend, the less likely it seems that Alex would have taken her own life.

Plenty of characters populate Lackborg’s novel, and surprisingly few are extraneous. Besides Erica, a major player is Patrik, a local police officer. They, too, had known each other as kids. As a boy, Patrik was enthralled by Erica. Alex’s death brings them together in more ways than one.

Lackberg doesn’t rely on the mystery; she includes romance, domestic violence and long-held secrets. The result is an engaging story that moves at a comfortable pace. It’s not necessarily a rapid-page turner, but is likely to keep you reading later at night than you might like.

The Ice Princess
Four Bookmarks
Pegasus Books, 2010
393 pages

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Hell In Helsinki   Leave a comment

healer

I learned about The Healer from a link sent by a friend featuring book doppelgangers. Antti Tuomainen’s novel was identified as the literary twin to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. That’s all I needed to know – or so I thought. Unfortunately, it’s more a fraternal connection than identical.

Yes, it’s set in Scandinavia but from there the similarities are tenuous at best. The Healer is compact but can’t quite settle on a specific genre. It’s crime fiction, without the thrill of trying to determine whodunit before it’s spelled out. It’s an apocalyptic tale, without an explanation of what actually took place – except for references to global warming. It’s a love story, told only from Tapani the narrator’s perspective, which is unreliable.

Tapani recounts his frantic search for his missing wife, Johanna, a journalist working on a story about a series of murders. The couple has never gone more than a few hours without communicating with one another. Her editor is disinterested, the police are over-worked, and friends are not forthcoming. Tapani is on his own left to retrace his wife’s steps. Along the way he is befriended by a helpful yet mysterious cab driver. And, Tapani uncovers a few secrets from Johanna’s past, which make him question how well he truly knows her.

Tuomaninen’s description of Helsinki is stark; it’s a city of constant rain, poverty and crowds. None of which, like Tapani’s search for Johanna, is very engaging. Nonetheless, I found myself thinking about the ending long after finishing this terse novel.

The Healer
Three Bookmarks
Henry Holt and Co., 2010
211 pages

Crime (Lit) Fix   1 comment

I don’t know what it is that makes me crave Scandinavian crime fiction, but I’m addicted. Sweden’s Hakan Nesser’s Mind’s Eye fed my habit, but I know I’ll need more soon. Nesser is a master storyteller whose pacing is neither rushed nor sluggish. The crime scenes aren’t too gruesome and the clues are well hidden. He even manages to throw humor into the mix.

The story begins with Janek Mitter awakening from a drunken stupor only to find his wife drowned in the bathtub. Mitter’s too easy a suspect, but is, nonetheless, tried and convicted before things take a turn and get exciting: Mitter, too, becomes a victim. That’s where Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, a middle-aged investigator with an attitude, comes in. His success rate at solving crimes is impressive. He had early doubts about Mitter’s guilt, but not soon enough.

I had a fairly good idea about who the actual killer was, but was not prepared for why. Van Veeteren knows who but won’t name names because, as he tells a subordinate, “… there has to be a story,” in other words a reason. Nesser’s characters develop slowly, and in an interesting manner. Many chapters begin with stream of consciousness narration and it is unclear who’s doing the thinking. This only enhances the element of suspense. Eventually, it gives way to very clear identities and perspectives.

This is the first of Nesser’s Van Veeteren mysteries. I can’t wait for my next fix, I mean the next installment. Fortunately, Nesser has several.

Mind’s Eye
Four Bookmarks
Pantheon Books, 2008
278 pages