More reviews of Swedish crime fiction. First, the much-awaited publication of Girl Who Played with Fire gets further notice. From the Times –
The essential first step to appreciating Stieg Larsson is to rid yourself of any fixed image you have of Swedish crime fiction. Yes, Larsson is a Swede, as is Henning Mankell and any number of other first-class spinners of mysteries. But the adventures of Inspector Kurt Wallander are far away from Larsson’s novels. If Mankell is Swedish gloomy, Larsson is Swedish noir. Very. . . .
[Salander is] unbelievable. All her attributes are exaggerated, at times veering to fantasy; her mental and physical strengths are beyond those of ordinary humans. Yet Larsson’s writing manages to make her intriguing, admirable and even – though this is an effort – sympathetic. . . .
The novel is complex in plot and characterisation, perhaps unnecessarily so. But the urgency of Larsson’s prose prevents boredom in reading a book that would otherwise be regarded as over-long and over-crammed. Somehow, Larsson has managed to write a riveting read.
And a nicely-calibrated review at Euro Crime – where, again, Salander’s major role is given some scrutiny:
There is also a strong element of male wish-fulfilment running through the book. Lisbeth is almost a Modesty Blaise-like figure at times, having her breasts enlarged, living off junk food yet remaining “anorexically thin” (as we are often reminded), and enjoying lusty sex with men and women. The Millennium journalists are similarly idealised, being portrayed as liberal-thinking, high on integrity and very highly sexed. On the other hand, most of the other men in the book are either decent enough yet bland (the police chief) or pure evil – rapists, abductors, child abusers and “men who hate women” to name but a few of the types in the pages. Most of these aspects add to the overall excitement, but they also create a slightly comic-book atmosphere.
Nevertheless, despite these flaws (some of which the author might have revised before publication had he lived) this book is truly powerful. The criminal investigation turns out to be directly related to the events in Lisbeth’s horrific past, and the way in which old events are gradually revealed in order to explain how the crimes occurred is very cleverly done, with a stunning, emotionally draining climax.
Sounds like the first installment – not without some outsized flaws and even more outsized virtues.
Meanwhile, over at Reviewing the Evidence I review Johan Theorin’s Echoes of the Dead and Sarah Dudley finds favor with Henning Mankell’s The Pyramid. And the Wheredunnit blog finds Arnaldur Indridason’s Arctic Chill a “compelling police procedural.” Steph Davies (the genius behind the Wheredunnit enterprise) also has this interesting news:
The next Erlendur novel, Harðskafi, promises much. It apparently takes the detective back to his childhood home (see below) deep into his soul and the defining trauma of his youth, the loss of his younger brother. Released in Iceland in 2007, it is due to be published in English in the Autumn of 2009 under the provisional title Hypothermia.