Tag Archives: Kjell Eriksson

Our Far-Flung Correspondents – The Hand that Trembles by Kjell Eriksson Reviewed by Ananth Krishnan

This review of Kjell Eriksson’s The Hand that Trembles is a guest contribution from Ananth Krishnan, an avid reader and frequent reviewer who lives in India. 

There is no doubt that I have been smitten by the Scandinavian crime bug. If Mankell and Maj Sjöwall / Per Wahloo have sown the seeds, then further care was bestowed by the likes of Jo Nesbo, Camilla Lackberg & Steig Larsson with Kjell Eriksson marking the official existence of the contagion – nevertheless, it is a viral infection that I am enjoying infinitely ! Though all the name dropping above is but a drop in the ocean I think these names are enough proof of the impact these authors have had in the world of crime fiction (not to mention the big fat hole in my wallet, however I must mention here my thanks to Allison & Busby for providing me a review copy of this particular book)

Eriksson’s The Hand that Trembles marks my latest foray into this wonderful world. The book deals with three sub plots, so to say – Sven-Arne’s Persson’s vanishing without a trace from public life after being a successful politician for several years, a dismembered foot washed up on the beach leading Ann Lindell to investigate further and an age old but unsolved crime of the beating to death of Nils Dufva being looked into by Berglund (Ann’s boss). Given that this is crime fiction, there are no points for guessing that these would all be linked somehow but where Eriksson shines is the approach he employs to develop the plot – the characters are all carefully etched and the settings amidst which their interplay happens suggests loads of intricate research.

Eriksson excels in his prose many a time employing excellent metaphors that show an amazing depth in the character – this especially comes to the fore when his characters indulge in their introspective ruminations. Of special mention is the character Ante Persson (Sven-Arne Persson’s uncle), a staunch communist – his trauma is palpable and his portrayal is so vivid that one cannot help but show empathy towards this old man. It is also with this character that Eriksson manages to tie in a militant past that embodies much of Sweden’s actual history (in terms of communism and Nazi politics during the 1930s). The novel ebbs and flows across time and places never leaving the boundaries of the three sub plots yet still managing to inject enough twists and spins to keep the reader interested. As with most other Nordic writers Eriksson too manages a wonderful depiction of community life and how tight knit its inhabitants and their lives are – Bultudden is where the discerped foot appears and it is with its residents that Ann Lindell is pitted against in order to untangle the mystery.

I don’t think I need to specifically mention that I enjoyed this book but I do have to mention some little gripes. I could not help but have a disjointed feeling as I was turning the pages – I don’t know if it was because this was my first read of the series (it is actually eight-old in Swedish and four-old in English) lending to unfamiliarity with the recurring characters or the random order translation of the series itself into English – irrespective, it was something I could not shake off. Not to mean that I found it boring but I found some sections random and incoherent in relation to the flow of events. Ann Lindell comes across as a very promising and talented detective but this particular book does not have enough to paint a picture in my head, I really wished Eriksson would have spent some more time for those not-in-order readers like me. Another thing that I just have to say – I am an Indian and I could not help but judge how Bangalore was portrayed (Bangalore is featured in this book as Sven-Arne Persson’s hideout after his disappearance).  I wonder if Eriksson has actually been to Bangalore but I find the imagery including the nuances fairly accurate but I would have liked it if some judgmental portions were toned down just a touch.

Even so, these issues are just me bellyaching for this was a book that I found to be a very satisfying read. It was a journey that was filled with all the ingredients that a successful crime fiction novel should contain – strong characters with honest portraits of their daily realism, an unassailable plot that is a reward to see resolved and some fitting research work not to mention the tinge of India thrown in to top things off – a winning recipe all around!!!

Thank you, Ananth, for sharing your review with readers of this blog!

review round-up

It has been a long time since I caught up on reviews and news about Scandinavian crime fiction. Lots to report . . .

Norm brings the news that Arne Dahl has won the Swedish crime fiction award with Viskelen (Chinese Whispers) which has not yet had rights sold to the US or UK. Let’s hope that happens. His first book in English, Misterioso, has only just been released after years of delay.

The Boy  the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis is among the mysteries reviewed in the Globe and Mail . Margaret Cannon says it has “a terrific central character and a great plot.”

At Reviewing the Evidence, Yvonne Klein has some reservations about the book – particularly its jumpy structure, leaping among points of view, and the withholding of information about Nina Borg until the final pages, a strategy that she found manipulative; still, she will read more as the series continues.

Marlyn Stasio of the New York Times Book Review gives it a strong review, saying “it packs an almighty punch.”

The Mumbai Daily News and Analysis reviews Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Mercy (apa The Keeper of Lost Causes) and calls it a “riveting read.”

At The Game’s Afoot, Jose Igancio Escribano reviews Arnaldur Indridason’s Outrage and finds it’s “an excellent contribution to an already superb series.”

At Euro Crime, Rich Westwood reviews Mikkel Birkegaard’s Death Sentence and finds that it’s closer to being in the horror genre than mystery. Amanda at Rustic Ramblings enjoyed it a good deal, though she agrees with Westwood that there’s a lot of graphic violence involved.

Peter at Nordic Bookblog reviews Anne Holt’s Fear Not, which he reckons is the best in the Adam Stubo and Johanne Vik series.

At Petrona, Maxine Clarke reviews The Hand that Trembles by Kjell Eriksson which is engrossing, with three investigations that are adroitly resolved, using a mix of “character, a strong sense of location, and narrative” rather than violence, high drama, and gore.

She also reviews K. O. Dahl’s Lethal Investments, the first of the author’s police procedural series featuring Gunnarstranda and Frolich. It’s very much a classic crime story – and was, in fact, published 18 years ago, a victim of a malady Maxine has dubbed the TOOO syndrome – translated out of order.

More from Maxine can be found at Euro Crime, where she reviews Hakan Nesser’s The Unlucky Lottery, which has the author’s “trademark bleak humor.”

Crime Fiction Lover has a review of Sara Blaedel’s Call Me Princess, which she found an enjoyable old-fashioned story with a contemporary twist.

Rob Kitchen at The View from the Blue House takes a look at Asa Larsson’s The Savage Altar (Sun Storm), which he give high points for characterization and its sense of place.

A reviewer for The Guardian has a rather peculiar response to the book: she thinks the things police think about are unsanitary and rather nasty. I think the book deserves a proper review.

Glenn Harper provides one at International Noir Fiction, finding it a very enjoyable read. He considers Dahl one of the best of Scandinavian writers.

Bernadette has a reaction to reading Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters: it’s not nearly as good as books in the Harry Hole series and doesn’t tick her boxes for her list of what makes a good thriller.

She also reviews Mari Jungstedt’s The Dead of Summer which she find enjoyable if not as thrilling as it might be if suspects emerged sooner and the ultimate solution to the crime less obvious.

Bibliojunkie (who seeks no cure for her book addiction) has an excellent review of Asa Larsson’s Until Thy Wrath Be Past, saying Larsson “juggles the balance of both horrifying crime and human drama beautifully” and finding in Scandinavian crime fiction a gratifying attention to character development.

Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom’s new thriller, Cell 8, is reviewed in The Independent, which finds it energetic and mesmerizing, if a bit heavy on the social issues.

Declan Burke at Crime Always Pays says “in essence, CELL 8 is a lecture on how the world would be a much better place if only we all conformed to the authors’ principles” and it’s “laughably preposterous” to boot. I wish he’d just tell us what he really thinks.

At The Crime Segments, Nancy O reviews Burned  by Thomas Enger, a book she enjoyed very much, particularly for its plotting and its journalist hero.

Craig of Crime Watch, the New Zealand guide to all things crime fiction, has a Q & A with Mons Kallentoft, author of Midwinter Sacrifice, as an appetizer for a Kallentoft feature forthcoming in his 9mm author interview series. (The real mystery: when does Craig ever sleep?)

Apparently Martin Scorsese might direct a film version of Nesbo’s The Snowman. Also, this is the first time I’ve encountered “helm” used as a verb.

And in The Guardian, Andrew Anthony interviews several Norwegian writers about their take on the terrible shootings last July. K.O.Dahl’s niece was  on the island where 69 people were shot dead, surviving by playing dead. It’s quite a harrowing story and a thoughtful article. In addition to Dahl, there are substantial interviews of Anne Holt, Jo Nesbo, and literary novelist Jan Kjaerstad. In a rather charming and very Norwegian moment, as Anthony talks to Kjaerstad in a restaurant and man stops to chat before sitting nearby. The crown prince of Norway, dining at one of his favorite restaurants.

Reviews and Nesbo Plus Yet More Larsson

NancyO reviews Hakan Nesser’s Woman With Birthmark and finds it cerebral, subdued, and very good: “What drives the killer is what slowly unravels throughout the story, teased out a little at a time. As in all of his Van Veeteren books, Nesser’s writing, his plotting genius and his characterizations all speak for themselves”

Tulsa People has its take on the “great write north” featuring the usual suspects.

R.T. reviews Kjell Eriksson’s The Demon of Dakar and recommends it.

The Independent reviews Camilla Lackberg’s The Stonecutter and says she’s very good at the job “to make the reader pleasurably uncomfortable.”

New Nesbo Reviews are up at USA Today,The Oregonian, The Washington Post (Patrick Anderson calls it “a big, ambitious, wildly readable story”) and  The New York Times (Marilyn Stasio thinks The Devil’s Star lacks some of the issue-related heft of other books in Harry Hole’s series). Simon Parker at BookGeeks reviews The Snowman. The Dallas Morning News has reviews of The Devil’s Star and Henning Mankell’s The Man from Beijing.

Peter Rozovsky introduces Nesbo and gives us an interview in two parts, here and here. More interviews at the Globe and Mail, and The New York Times.

And there are lashings of Larsson:

On the radio – The Stieg Larsson Story.

Shots Magazine covers “Crimes of the Millennium,” a conference on the Larsson phenomenon held at the Swedish Embassy in the UK. Maxine was there, too.

Books to the Ceiling reports on an “immersion” experience in the Millennium Trilogy via book club discussions.

In “Obama, Lehman, and ‘The Dragon Tattoo,” Frank Rich, a political columnist for The New York Times, points out how prescient Stieg Larsson was in finding the manipulations of bankers traitorous and malicious. He also suggests that the techno-wizards who created some of the complex computer programs that were used to shift vast amounts of money around in ways that nobody really understood, but seemed to keep beating the odds, are a peculiarly American version of Lisbeth Salander, not interested in justice or revealing the true scope of evil but in hacking the system to make themselves rich without moral (or legal) consequences. Rich (who is on the left side of politics) warns that we’d better take Stieg’s warning and deal with popular anger against rewarding big failures. Readers of popular fiction have spoken.

review round-up

Dorte reviews The Snowman and gives the entire Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo an enthusiastic thumbs-up (and I second the motion).

Maxine likes it too, as she struggles to read the massive list of book eligible for the International Dagger (which is a fairly herculean task – there are 61 titles!) So far the Scandinavians are going for the gold: “of the titles I’ve read, which is my front-runner? So hard to say, as the standard is extremely high. So far, in my mind, it’s between The Snowman by Jo Nesbo and The Darkest Room by Johan Theorin, but I expect that will change. (Hypothermia by Arlandur Indridason is my favourite from the titles I’ve read so far for personal reasons, but these Nesbo and Theorin titles are, objectively, better crime novels as they have a broader canvas.)”

She also reviews Kjell Eriksson’s The Cruel Stars of Night at Euro Crime. She says, “Despite its almost completely depressing subject-matter, the book is appealing and involving – there is something about the imperfection of Ann and her colleagues that seems authentic and attractive. This author’s trademark seems to be to tell the stories of his characters’ lives (new ones in each book) alongside those of his detectives (regular series characters) – in such a way that the detectives, even if they solve all or part of a case, never know the full context that we, the readers, have been allowed to witness – an interesting perspective.”

And she reviews Hakan Nesser’s Woman With Birthmark. (I think some of her clever boffin friends must have come up with a solution to wasting several of the 24 hours of the day in sleeping.) She is amazed that the book can be both so grim and so very funny.

Not only is the story of this book, if extremely depressing, very well constructed and told, but the great dry humour and byplay between the detectives is hilarious. I can’t imagine how the author manages to make the reader laugh out loud so often while telling such a ghastly tale, but he does it. It’s also worth noting that no gruesome descriptions of dead bodies or other pathological details are used in creating this excellently compelling, lean novel, very ably translated by the ever-dependable Laurie Thompson.

Clea Simon has mixed feelings about Henning Mankell’s  The Man from Beijing.  She reports he has not lost his ability to create vivid characters, but “a kind of self-righteous didacticism sets in.” She feels his concerns with ethical issues are a strength of his writing, but here he overdoes it, and it overshadows both his gifts and his moral compass.

Andrew Brown of The Guardian is skeptical about Swedish crime fiction (and the general value of the entire country, in fact) but he seems to like The Man from Beijing, saying “it is a considerable achievement to have woven a discussion of Chinese foreign policy into a generally gripping thriller.” The solving of crimes pales in comparison to the audaciously large scope of the book. “But perhaps the point is the general mood of anxiety, modulating into terror, rather than any particular trigger. A lone assassin or a rising superpower: either will do to disrupt the neatly curtained domestic lives of the Swedish bourgeoisie. It is the disruption, the threat and the delicious chill of fear, all safely contained, that is the pleasure of all these books.”

That’s all very well, but I completely disagree with what follows:

There are crime novels that ask how ordinary people can do dreadful things. Nicolas Freeling, Barbara Vine and George Pelecanos all do this. But in Swedish crime fiction the most reassuring fact is that the villain is always very different from the reader. No matter how many bodies are hacked about, it remains a curiously innocent genre in the sense of the I Ching, whose definition of innocence is “misfortune comes from without”.

This seems entirely the opposite of nearly every Scandinavian work of crime fiction that I’ve read. But then Brown also says he can’t understand why this stuff is popular because Sweden is “a largely empty backwater about which the outside world knows little or nothing. Nor are these books laden with local colour (though perhaps this helps, in supplying a blank conventional stage for the drama).” And when he says “most recent Swedish crime novels have been about the breakdown of the old social democratic order” I wonder if he’s ever heard of Sjowall and Wahloo, or if his idea of “recent” includes the 1960s.

All of which makes me think take Clea Simon’s view far more seriously. I suppose I will have to read the book myself to make up my mind.

a snow-covered god jul post

Having gotten distracted by work, here’s a catch-up post of things that have accumulated over the past few weeks…

A blogger who “never stops reading – no matter what” has added Kjell Eriksson’s The Cruel Stars of Night to her Year in Books blog. She says “I love the way Eriksson writes and I love the slow and methodical pacing of this novel” though she takes issue with a plot turn that required the protagonist to be momentarily dimwitted. But she forgives the lapse and says she can “definitely recommend Cruel Stars of the Night to those who enjoy a really good police procedural, and to those who also enjoy psychological suspense.”

She also reviews a book from Finland written by an American who lives there (and first was published in Finnish) -James Thompson’s Snow Angels. There are some coincidences in the plot, she feels, and some of the characters are not as fleshed-out as she would like, but it has its strong points. “I was drawn in by the author’s ability to set the tone of the bleakness of life above the Arctic Circle in Finland, where it’s dark and cold and to pass the time, people have little to do other than drink. The atmosphere was so well laid out for the reader that for a time you can imagine yourself there.” This one is in my TBR so I will be reporting my reaction here before long.

Peter broods over the meaning of the brooding detective while recommending Arnaldur Indridason’s Erlendur series at Detectives Beyond Borders. As always, his blog is really a salon with many interesting comments on Scandinavians, Italians, families, and more.

The Nekkidblogger (brrrr!) predicts that The Hypnotist by “Lars Keppler” will be the next Stieg Larsson-like sensation even though Lars Keppler is actually a collaboration of two literary authors.

Lars Kepler does not exist. Huge sensation. Lars Kepler turned out to be a pseudonym for two literary authors, husband-and-wife Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril, now writing under the pseudonym Lars Kepler. They have so far barely been able to sustain themselves economically by their writing. Now they wanted to make money. And in Sweden, crime fiction writers make big money. And, of course, when in Sweden, do as the Swedes. So they decided to write crime fiction, using a cool name.

The Nordic Book Blog reviews Ake Edwardson’s Death Angels which he finds a “well constructed police procedural” though less polished than the later books in the series. This was the first, though the most recent to be translated into English.

Naomi of The Drowning Machine reviews Asa Larsson’s The Black Path which she feels suffers from excessive exposition and draggy pacing. “The Black Path has atmosphere to spare, a hallmark of Swedish crime fic, and the characters are thoroughly developed. When I say thoroughly I mean to the point that the details of every character’s life, past and present, drag the pace down to NASCAR (National Association of Snail Crawling and Roundaboutation) speed. . . . An unlikely blood bath as the climax combined with what seemed a brief and pointless interjection of romance at novel’s end, all left me unmoved.” In the comment thread that follows she points out that others who read the book felt differently, but I had many of the same reservations though I was not quite so … em, expressive.

Several bloggers participating in the ABC of crime fiction meme have highlighted Scandinavian crime fiction including

I have not been playing along, but I might propose A is for Alvtegen, B for Burman, C for Camilla LackbergD for K.O. Dahl, and E for Edwardson … maybe I’ll have enough time to play in the new year. Or maybe not.

Maxine at Petrona points out that Ake Edwardson’s Sun and Shadow, Arnaldur Indridason’s Voices, and Liza Marklund’s The Bomber qualifies for Christmas Crime. Kerrie, who started both memes at her Mysteries in Paradise, scored both with Voices, using it for both the letter I and for Christmas Crime.

More BBC Wallander is on the way.

Those in the UK NZ get to see the Girl on film starting on boxing day, or so this site claims (when I read it properly). Ali has already gotten a sneak peek as well he should, being the world number one fan (GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO). So did Craig Sisterton in New Zealand. Those of us in the US can twiddle our thumbs. We’re used to it.

Americans, however, will be resposible for a remake. This is not a very good form of revenge.

A Danish film journal has an analysis of the gender roles in the films which, fortunately for us unschooled yanks, is in English. The authors contrast the treatment of gender in the books with the depiction in the films.

Our main argument is that the adaptation from novel to film involves an alteration of the gender representations in the two main characters, and that this alteration corresponds to the genre-specific and media-specific conditions associated respectively with the genre thriller versus crime fiction and with the format of the film versus that of the novel. In examining these differences in relation to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we draw on the fact that gender is a central issue in Nordic crime fiction as bestseller and cultural commodity.

Basically, the authors argue that the gender relationships are simplified in the film as it is condensed for the shorter storytelling format. When I finally get a chance to see the films, I’ll see if I agree.

Finally, glædelig jul, Hyvää joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta, gleðileg jól og farsælt komandi ár, god jul og godt nytt år, and god jul och gott nytt år! I leave you with a photo from Minnesota of King Gustav Adolph enjoying our white Christmas….

"... I seem to have something in my eye..."

time out, Scandinavia

Elisabeth Vincentelli, determined dilletante and arts editor for Time Out New York, decided to cure a run of unusually pleasant weather in New York City by reading some noir Scandinavian fiction.

Thumbs up for Steig Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and for Per Persson, whose To Siberia is a spare masterpiece.  On the other hand, Henning Mankell’s standalone The Depths scores high both in both bleakness and cliches. As for Kjell Eriksson’s procedurals, The Demon from Dakar and The Cruel Stars of Night . . . in a word, m’eh.

I’m not sure how you say m’eh in French, but I’m amazed that Elisabeth, who is originally from France, has been able to restrain herself from reading the second in the Millennium trilogy, which has been out in French translation for some time as one of our French professors has told me, gloatingly.

Thanks to the Determined Dilettante for the props!