Thumbs Up, Down, and Sideways

Maxine finds some things to like about Matti Joensuu’s To Steal Her Love, but wishes the narrative spent less time seeing the world from the perspective of a deranged synesthesiac burglar.

Yvonne Klein also has reservations about Johann Theorin’s The Darkest Room, finding all the character development and atmospherics of the slow build-up don’t pay off in the suddenly dramatic climax.

And continuing the streak of negativity, I confess to being left cold by Erik Winter in his first outing, Death Angels – which combines a gory plot with a cool and distant hero given to existential moments.

On the other hand, John Timpane of the Philadelphia Inquirer thinks highly of Box 21.

Dark, often crushingly grim, Box 21 introduces us to a world of characters who hate what they do for a living. I count at least two police detectives, one junkie, one doctor, a welter of crooks, and at least one social servant who see the veneer peel off their careers, revealing the shabby, agonized self-deception beneath.

Heroes and heroines are here, to be sure, and in the end the book is a celebration of love. But Box 21 teaches a hard truth, forces us to admire people we cannot like, to see when we’d rather turn away. It holds us still and makes us look. . . . .

Like its Nordic noir fellows, Box 21 is profound, with much to show, much to say, much to set in play, on the human condition. It’s a novel with a heart, even if it’s a hardened heart.

And a reviewer at Book Gazette thinks Karin Alvtegen’s Betrayal is a terrific read.

In Betrayal, Alvtegen gets inside the minds of her characters and sometimes even describes the same scene from different perspectives. This technique helps build suspense as it allows the action to unfold gradually. The reading experience is interesting. The reader slowly pieces together the story by collecting impressions, information and important clues, coming at the main narrative from different angles.

Betrayal’s plot is powerful, yet Karin Alvtegen’s novel is as much about individual histories and relationships as it is about what actually happens. The multiple betrayals give rise to dynamics that, as a reader, you just know must end in disaster. How, when, for whom, however, are unknowns. There is little violence, but still the suspense is continuously building. Action drives action. There are no punishments and no rewards, there are only consequences.

 

 

good company in the pyscho database

Peter rounds up recent news about Scandinavian crime fiction from Scandinavian sources, including the good news that Jo Nesbo will be publishing another book in the Harry Hole and the unhappy rumor that Hakan Nesser will be retiring from writing after another four books. He also points out that English-language readers will not be too bothered, given the backlog of his books yet to be translated, but still . . .

Ms Textual takes a close look at two Swedish novels, Henning Mankell’s Sidetracked and Karin Alvtegen’s Betrayal. She warns in her blog sidebar that she doesn’t review books, she analyzes them, so here there be spoilers. But she has some very interesting things to say about both books, about translation, and about reading books from unfamiliar cultures. She has particularly high praise for Alvtegen and the structure of  Betrayal that she finds has “a textual integrity that is breathtaking to observe.”

ProfMike thinks Jo Nesbo’s The Redeemer rocks:

If you like your detective heroes/anti-heroes as amoral, alcoholic and contradictory, then they don’t come much more dysfunctional than Harry Hole. This is a superbly-paced thriller, bristling with political comment and whilst Hole is as disrespectful of the law as any of his adversaries, he doesn’t confuse legal justice with moral justice and no matter how low he sinks, we keep on forgiving him and rooting for him, in spite of his complete failure as a human being. There are many great Scandanavian crime fiction writers out there at the moment, butr for me, Nesbo is the one who is constantly pushing at the boundaries.

maryb (mindtraveler and appreciator – what a great job description) found Karin Alvtegen’s Missing to be a winner: “pinpoint sharp and tightly focused” with a compelling and original protagonist.

Matt Rees, a recovering journalist who writes about the reality of the Palestinian situation in the form of crime fiction, doesn’t think much of Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, saying it makes him “want to throw knives like the Swedish chef on The Muppet Show.”  Why? There’s too much of an impulse to bury the reader in infodumps and (worse yet) the Internet is used as a creaky deus ex machina that is too often a crime fiction author’s cheap way out of a crack. Linkmeister also offers his take, which is more positive.

Publisher’s Lunch offered its subscribers some insights into the dispute over Stieg Larsson’s estate and Sarah Weinman offers those of us who aren’t subscribers the highlights.  Though actually, that’s not at all the right word for it. It’s a sad tangle complicated by money.

Jonathan Segura offers a profile of Yrsa Sigurdardottir in Publishers Weekly. It provides a charming picture of Iceland – where an informal poll taken in bars (dubbed “research” but resulting in a hangover) finds that not only are her books known to Icelanders, she’s personally known to a great many of them – and some fun tidbits, such as this take on her prep for Last Rituals: “Yrsa ordered witchcraft books from Amazon.com. Now, she gets e-mails from them promoting books on torture equipment. ‘I’m in their psycho database,’ she says.”