a snow-covered god jul post

Having gotten distracted by work, here’s a catch-up post of things that have accumulated over the past few weeks…

A blogger who “never stops reading – no matter what” has added Kjell Eriksson’s The Cruel Stars of Night to her Year in Books blog. She says “I love the way Eriksson writes and I love the slow and methodical pacing of this novel” though she takes issue with a plot turn that required the protagonist to be momentarily dimwitted. But she forgives the lapse and says she can “definitely recommend Cruel Stars of the Night to those who enjoy a really good police procedural, and to those who also enjoy psychological suspense.”

She also reviews a book from Finland written by an American who lives there (and first was published in Finnish) –James Thompson’s Snow Angels. There are some coincidences in the plot, she feels, and some of the characters are not as fleshed-out as she would like, but it has its strong points. “I was drawn in by the author’s ability to set the tone of the bleakness of life above the Arctic Circle in Finland, where it’s dark and cold and to pass the time, people have little to do other than drink. The atmosphere was so well laid out for the reader that for a time you can imagine yourself there.” This one is in my TBR so I will be reporting my reaction here before long.

Peter broods over the meaning of the brooding detective while recommending Arnaldur Indridason’s Erlendur series at Detectives Beyond Borders. As always, his blog is really a salon with many interesting comments on Scandinavians, Italians, families, and more.

The Nekkidblogger (brrrr!) predicts that The Hypnotist by “Lars Keppler” will be the next Stieg Larsson-like sensation even though Lars Keppler is actually a collaboration of two literary authors.

Lars Kepler does not exist. Huge sensation. Lars Kepler turned out to be a pseudonym for two literary authors, husband-and-wife Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril, now writing under the pseudonym Lars Kepler. They have so far barely been able to sustain themselves economically by their writing. Now they wanted to make money. And in Sweden, crime fiction writers make big money. And, of course, when in Sweden, do as the Swedes. So they decided to write crime fiction, using a cool name.

The Nordic Book Blog reviews Ake Edwardson’s Death Angels which he finds a “well constructed police procedural” though less polished than the later books in the series. This was the first, though the most recent to be translated into English.

Naomi of The Drowning Machine reviews Asa Larsson’s The Black Path which she feels suffers from excessive exposition and draggy pacing. “The Black Path has atmosphere to spare, a hallmark of Swedish crime fic, and the characters are thoroughly developed. When I say thoroughly I mean to the point that the details of every character’s life, past and present, drag the pace down to NASCAR (National Association of Snail Crawling and Roundaboutation) speed. . . . An unlikely blood bath as the climax combined with what seemed a brief and pointless interjection of romance at novel’s end, all left me unmoved.” In the comment thread that follows she points out that others who read the book felt differently, but I had many of the same reservations though I was not quite so … em, expressive.

Several bloggers participating in the ABC of crime fiction meme have highlighted Scandinavian crime fiction including

I have not been playing along, but I might propose A is for Alvtegen, B for Burman, C for Camilla LackbergD for K.O. Dahl, and E for Edwardson … maybe I’ll have enough time to play in the new year. Or maybe not.

Maxine at Petrona points out that Ake Edwardson’s Sun and Shadow, Arnaldur Indridason’s Voices, and Liza Marklund’s The Bomber qualifies for Christmas Crime. Kerrie, who started both memes at her Mysteries in Paradise, scored both with Voices, using it for both the letter I and for Christmas Crime.

More BBC Wallander is on the way.

Those in the UK NZ get to see the Girl on film starting on boxing day, or so this site claims (when I read it properly). Ali has already gotten a sneak peek as well he should, being the world number one fan (GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO GiRl WiTh ThE dRaGoN tAtToO). So did Craig Sisterton in New Zealand. Those of us in the US can twiddle our thumbs. We’re used to it.

Americans, however, will be resposible for a remake. This is not a very good form of revenge.

A Danish film journal has an analysis of the gender roles in the films which, fortunately for us unschooled yanks, is in English. The authors contrast the treatment of gender in the books with the depiction in the films.

Our main argument is that the adaptation from novel to film involves an alteration of the gender representations in the two main characters, and that this alteration corresponds to the genre-specific and media-specific conditions associated respectively with the genre thriller versus crime fiction and with the format of the film versus that of the novel. In examining these differences in relation to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we draw on the fact that gender is a central issue in Nordic crime fiction as bestseller and cultural commodity.

Basically, the authors argue that the gender relationships are simplified in the film as it is condensed for the shorter storytelling format. When I finally get a chance to see the films, I’ll see if I agree.

Finally, glædelig jul, Hyvää joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta, gleðileg jól og farsælt komandi ár, god jul og godt nytt år, and god jul och gott nytt år! I leave you with a photo from Minnesota of King Gustav Adolph enjoying our white Christmas….

"... I seem to have something in my eye..."

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.