reviews and reactions

Peter gives us a preview of Johan Theorin’s next book, The Darkest Room (or, as they say in Sweden, Nattfåk, which means something quite different, but then so it was for the title of his first book, Echoes from the Dead; I like his Swedish titles better). Peter recommends it highly, concluding

The Darkest Room is well written, full of mysteries, and told in a style that evokes a feeling of that there is something mystical, perhaps super-natural, going on. The plot is rich and has lots of neat features, and Theorin very skillfully shows his cards one at a build while gradually build more and more suspense. As well, this is book which displays a deep understanding of human vulnerability and grief.

Maxine thinks The Preacher is a ripper of a yarn, and an exellent followup to Camilla Lackberg’s Ice Princess. Word on FriendFeed is that Patrick is less of a drip, causing relief all around. She concludes:

The Preacher is a good mystery story, very well translated. Although there are too few characters to make the ending a complete surprise, Camilla Lackberg (pictured) keeps all the balls juggling in the air to keep the reader guessing as to the details almost right to the finish. Although the ending of the book is exciting, it is also very bleak, and I found the details of the motivation of the criminal not all that convincing. These are minor disappointments, though. In the main, the book is a great read: as well as tight plotting, the author is particularly strong on her depictions of small-town dynamics, the interactions among the police, and the domestic story of Patrick and Erica, which is left nicely balanced for the next novel in the series.

What she says about the ending is intriguing; our copy just arrived in my library, so I may have to pick it up, particularly if the drip-factor is ameliorated.

Bernadette reacts very well indeed to reading Karin Alvtegen’s Missing and finds the heroine, a resourceful but troubled young woman who is homeless in a semi-voluntary way (and the layered timeframe of the narration explains why).

One of the things that struck me was that, unlike so many books these days, it didn’t delve deeply into every minute detail of Sybilla’s life and in fact left quite a few things up to the reader’s imagination. This is such a contrast from some of the detail-laden books the size of house bricks that I’ve read lately that I had almost forgotten that great stories can be told in less than 600 pages and that blood and gore aren’t necessary to create atmosphere . . . Missing is wonderfully sparse, genuinely exciting (I don’t stay up into the wee hours for just any old yarn) and quite thought provoking at the same time in the way it dealt with the issue of life’s outsiders.

I must say that while I felt the same way about Missing, I found Alvtegen’s Shadow, which I have just finished, to be entirely too detail-laden and without enough action at the front end  to make me care much about the unhappy and deeply introspective characters. My imagination twiddled its thumbs wondering when the gripping opening scene would pay off. While the theme of the novel – that the desire for acceptance and for recognition can drive people to squander their creativity and their humanity and creates competition and jealousy that devours writers and those around them – I think I’m much more interested in life’s outsiders, especially when they involve murders before page 10,000. (Well, that’s how it felt . . . sorry.) It does pick up toward the end, but I’m afraid I’d already taken a deep dislike to all of the characters and had repeated urges to smack them silly. All except for the patient social worker who, once again, makes me think moving to Sweden would be a very good plan. Like anyone official in the US would take the trouble to arrange a nice memorial service and look for friends and family when an elderly person dies alone. If we can’t find someone to make arrangements and pay the bills, we have a few square feet in a potter’s field for you. You’re welcome.

I will adopt the Australian mob’s excellent practice of linking to other reviews here, especially since I am a minority of one on this book. Everyone else found it brilliant. So look for more appreciative reviews from Maxine at Euro Crime (who found it compelling and brilliant)  kimbofo (who says “psychological crime thrillers don’t come much better than this”) and Kerrie (who likens it to a orchestral concerto and says she’s “staggered by the power of this book”). Not to mention the CWA panel that nominated it for an International Dagger. So don’t mind me. Just not much for psychological thrillers with quite this pyschology-to-thrill ratio. I’m shallow that way.

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4 thoughts on “reviews and reactions

  1. I think Läckberg is a rather good example of the Scandinavian genre called femikrimi, but like you, I have not really taken to Alvetegen. It may just be because I am more fond of crime than psychological thrillers.

  2. It was the miserable, dark psychologies that appealed to me about Shadow (and The Sinner by Petra Hammelsfahr, but that’s German). I love those black journeys into the soul. The Preacher is a bit of a comfort read in comparison, I’d say – there is an interesting contrast between the cosy interactions between Patrick and Erica, and the bleak plot. Both authors share the ability to ruthlessly follow through to the end, without being derailed by sentimentality, etc. (Unlike quite a few of the US and British similar-ish novels.)

  3. Dorte (and Maxine) I think Lackberg as “femikrimi” – and as a “comfort read” are quite on target. Though she brings up difficult subjects (the sister’s domestic violence situation, the way the motivations for crime aren’t just “ooh, let’s get grusome!” but actually are related to the way people treat one another) it’s balanced by the domestic side. (Tursten also does this well – going between a crime investigation to a normal, happy home life, what an original concept!) But even when there’s not the depth, there’s still really thoughtful commentary on the way people treat one another.

    Which was very much the subject of Shadow – but with each person seeming so locked away in their own misery. I longed for someone cheerful to show up, maybe married to someone she loved and could talk to. Where’s Irene Huss when you need her?

  4. I know what it feels like to have a minority opinion about a book Barbara – I couldn’t find anyone else who agreed with my view of Michael Robotham’s Shatter. But you react the way you react and that’s all there is to it.

    Sorry to hear that you didn’t find Shadow as good as Missing – I will read Shadow eventually but not for a while yet. I have learned that I don’t like reading books by the same author in quick succession so I give it at least 6 months in between books.

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