Glenn Harper finds life imitating art when a news story (scroll to the bottom) highlights those who have an unusual gift for remembering faces, just like Beate Lønn in Jo Nesbø’s series. The author of the study has kindly placed his article online for all to read, as the enlightened Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences have pledge to do.
Michael Carlson reviews Hakan Nesser’s Woman With Birthmark at CrimeTime and finds echoes of Per Wahlöö’s stand-alones in the ambiguity of Nesser’s setting.
Nominally, it appears to be Dutch, but there are echoes of Swedish society, and maybe even German habits in this amalgam of a country; apparently Nesser’s original Swedish uses words from all three languages in order to blue any distinction one might make. In this sense, it reminds me of Per Wahloo’s solo novels, like The Generals or The Lorry, whose settings were almost identifiable as a country, but with slight differences which drove home the point that this was not so far from home after all. I have the feeling that is the point Nesser is driving home in Woman With Birthmark, and, in the end, he drives it home powerfully.
The WSJ has things to say about Knopf’s campaign to promote Stieg Larsson’s second book. However, they are saying them only to subscribers. Luckily, my library is a subscriber so I can give you the gist. Knopf will launch a “six-figure marketing effort” – unusual in the business, where less than 5% of books (according to an industry insider) get any kind of advertising, and such advertising as there is tends to one-off print placement. This campaign will include mass transit advertisements in four cities and web ads as well as social media promotion. The company behind it is treating it more like the kind of advertising done for movies. Kind of odd when book news is all about how much you’re spending on promotion of a bestseller.
Also at the WSJ – and free to us hoi polloi – an intriguing interview with Maj Sjöwall, who with her husband Per Wahlöö, took Swedish crime fiction in a wholly new and realistic direction that set the groundwork for today’s wave of Scandinavian mysteries. (Naturally, the story is illustrated, as all such stories are, with a photo of Branagh playing Wallander.)
The Beck books were written between 1965 and 1975 by a pair of politically minded journalists whose larger purpose, in the words of Wahlöö (who died in 1975), was “to analyze criminality as a social function as well as its relationship to both society and . . . various types of moral lifestyles.” But the Beck chronicles — ensemble pieces that focused as much on Beck’s co-workers as on the putative hero — seemed anything but polemical; the books’ most revolutionary aspects were their human-sized protagonists and their realistic portrayal of actual police work (full of false starts, false leads and tedium).
Back then, Ms. Sjöwall writes by email from Sweden, “Swedish crime-writers wrote Agatha Christie-like books and seldom had policemen as main characters. Crime novels were considered pulp-literature in those days. Intellectuals rarely admitted to reading those kinds of books. We wanted to contribute to improving the linguistic quality, and to changing the way media treated that type of literature.” The couple were writing entertainment, “but our intention was also to describe and criticize certain changes in our society and the politics of that decade.”
She also points out in the interview that, though the couple translated Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct books into Swedish, Martin Beck predated their knowledge of Steve Carella & Co.
“When we started writing our series,” she says, “we didn’t know about Ed McBain. In a review of our second or third novel we were compared to him and Hillary Waugh. We read their books and urged our publisher to buy the rights. He did and asked us to translate Ed McBain. We translated a dozen of his 87th Precinct novels and were thus forever considered his epigones.”
Kerrie thinks highly of Mari Jungstedt’s Unseen – “it is really a story about relationships on a number of levels, and a tale that points out how our actions from our days of innocence can reach out into the present.”
The Hieroglyphic Streets maps out Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s The Man Who Went up in Smoke in which Martin Beck travels behind the iron curtain to Hungary.
DJ reviews Karin Fossum’s When the Devil Hold’s the Candle – one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read.
The crimes in this novel happen early, and afterwards Karin Fossum move under the skin of her main characters until we achieve some kind of understanding why everything could go so horribly wrong. Irma Funder speaks out for herself for the first time in her life and explains what happens when the devil holds the candle, and when it is not just Irma, but Irma and Andreas. Do things happen by accident, or are human beings evil? And if so, who are evil?