“Professor Plum” of Crime Critics discovers crime fiction of the Scandinavian variety when confronted by a reader who specializes in it, and samples some himself: specifically, Hakan Nesser’s Woman With Birthmark, to be released in the US in April.I’m not sure I’d ever use the descriptor “glum” with Nesser, myself, but Professor Plum thinks it fits, and goes on to say . . .
As much as I love a good cozy for what they provide, this is the anti-cozy. A style of book that drips with the morbid nature of death and dying without the sensationalized gore common to American literature. Nesser peels his characters back way beyond the flesh and blood and focuses on the primitive core of our brains that makes the rest possible. The result is a book that will not give you goosebumps, but rather will make the intake of each breath feel strenuous.
As good as Nesser is at crafting a story and filling it with his culture’s angst, credit also needs to be given to Laurie Thompson, the books translator. As impossible as writing a great novel seems to me, the idea of translating one from Swedish to English is even more difficult to fathom. And not just because I can’t read a lick of Swedish. There are so many cultural sayings that have to be converted, and the breadth of vocabulary needed to capture everything the author is conveying just boggles my brain. But the winning praise here is that you can’t tell this has been translated. Bravo to both for pulling this off.
WOMAN WITH BIRTHMARK broke me down emotionally during the final pages. I adore any work of art that can make me feel this deeply. Nesser created a murderer that I wasn’t sure I wanted stopped, a group of men that perhaps deserve something worse than death, and a police force that I pulled for, but perhaps not too much. The uniqueness of these conflicts created a pool of emotions in me before the dam finally blew in the final pages. It was one helluva ride. I may have gotten on board late, but I’m glad I’m here. And there is room for you guys as well.
He also points out this YouTube video interview with Nesser.