Month: September 2012

Silenced – Kristina Ohlsson

Title – Silenced

Author – Kristina Ohlsson (translated by Sarah Death)

Published – 2012

Genre – Crime fiction

I received this copy of Silenced – the second crime fiction title by Kristina Ohlsson, from www.thedarkpages.co.uk at a time when I’m feeling a little ambivalent about Scandi crime fiction.

The story surrounds the mysterious deaths of Jakob Ahlbin, a supporter of illegal immigrants, and his wife, that are assumed at first to be a murder/suicide. Investigators soon discover that one of their two daughters also died just days earlier from a drugs overdose. While this initially suggests a reason for the deaths of the parents, it soon becomes clear to the detectives that there is more to the case than meets the eye. There are other threads to the story which are told in parallel – that of Ali, an illegal immigrant who has just arrived in Sweden and a young woman trapped in Thailand.

Much of the book is more involved with the lives of the team working on the case than the mechanics of the investigations. I felt a bit torn about this – the characters were interesting and engaging and I did want to know more, but it felt as if their domestic lives were getting in the way of the plot, and it certainly slowed the pace. There’s also some reference to events in the past which I assume were from the earlier title of Unwanted, but that didn’t really interfere with the story. I was pleased that things didn’t get too bogged down in the processes of the Swedish Police!

I was unsure about the story to start with – in making things quite mysterious at the beginning I felt I was being left in the dark too much, although towards the middle of the book it became a real page turner. Unfortunately, however, the climax of the book and the revelations all came so thick and fast that I really couldn’t keep track at the end.

It did seem to me that despite the huge number of items that were resolved, there were actually quite a few loose ends and I was missing explanations of how some  of the things were achieved. Even a few days after finishing I catch myself thinking “so how did they do that” or “what was the point of

Sadly, as I haven’t yet seen or read The Killing I can’t comment on the cover which says it’s “for fans of …”!

Score – 3/5

What Dies in Summer – Tom Wright

Title – What Dies in Summer

Author – Tom Wright

Published –  2012

Genre – Crime fiction

When the CWA Dagger long lists were published earlier in the year I had high hopes of reading one complete list. But life & other books got in the way and when the shortlists were published I’d made no progress and the Gold Dagger, which had been my target, had shed two of the three books I’d read. The good news, though, was that the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger shortlist of 4 included both Wiley Cash and Tanya Byrne – leaving me just two titles to read. A much more achievable target.

So the two other titles on the list are What Dies in Summer by Tom Wright, and Ewart Hutton’s Good People. I’m still struggling to find the Hutton title in a bookshop – but I managed to get the Wright in time to take it on holiday and it was a pretty quick read.

Of course it’s hard to review this now without making some comparison to the other books on the shortlist and the most obvious thing is how the three I’ve read all feel, to some degree, like YA titles. The main character in What Dies in Summer is Biscuit, a teenage boy from a dysfunctional family who is living with his gran. The story opens with him finding his cousin, L.A., in a distressed state on their porch. Little is said about L.A.’s reasons for leaving home, but she moves into the spare room and slowly begins to open up to Biscuit. This feels very much like a YA “coming of age” story, until Biscuit starts having nightmares which feature a mystery dead girl.

It’s not too long before Biscuit and L.A. discover the actual body of a dead girl on the outskirts of town. This would be disturbing enough on its own, but her body has also been mutilated.  Biscuit doesn’t set out to find the murderer, but he is beset by a premonition that something bad is going to happen to L.A. or his gran. With this motivation, a few clues and a connection to the police in the shape of his girlfriend’s father, he finds the truth behind the murder.

This doesn’t have the atmospheric quality of the Cash title – although the settings feel quite similar. The book is quite dark – not only is there Biscuit and L.A.’s family, but there are a number of deaths in the book and of course the mutilated girl. Once the story picks up the pace, perhaps the last third of the book, there is a decent murder-mystery, but it’s just a bit hidden within the rest of the story.

In common with Heart-Shaped Bruise, it’s the character’s development which is at the heart of the story, rather than the “crime” element. Perhaps it’s a trend in crime fiction that the familiar aspects of mystery and detection are developed more subtly, but if so it’s not one that I’m a fan of. Of the three book’s I’ve so far read from the Creasey shortlist – my money’s on Wiley Cash.

Score – 3/5

The Redbreast – Jo Nesbø

Title – The Redbreast

Author – Jo Nesbø (translated by Don Bartlett)

Published – 2006

Genre – Crime fiction

I’ve been aware for a while that Jo Nesbø has been something of a gap in my crime fiction reading. I was lucky to win a copy of The Redbreast via Twitter a little while ago and have finally got round to reading it. Billed as “The next Stieg Larsson” and with many of the Harry Hole titles prominently advertised, I had high hopes.

Goodness what a slow book it was to get going! The very beginning was fine, with a few different and seemingly separate storylines developing. Then the story moves back to 1942, giving the reader no real idea of the relevance of this new thread. The story then moved back and forth between the present day and the wartime setting. There was an obvious assumption that one of the characters in 1942 was also someone from the 1999 thread, but the reader is kept in the dark as to who. Sadly, I didn’t actually care. There was very little about any of the characters to like, and I didn’t feel that more than one or two were dealt with in any detail. It was critical to the story was that the motivation was kept a mystery, but this made for a difficult read.

The one engaging character in the book is the main detective – Harry Hole. But even he felt like a fairly typical crime fiction detective – unorthodox, a heavy drinker.

The story follows Hole’s efforts to uncover who has paid for a gun which will probably be used by an assassin in Norway. There are a few clues that the gun has been used before the bodies start turning up. Then Hole has to race to find the assassin before the final target is killed. I may be making it sound more exciting than it was!

I really struggled to get through the book. It is long (600+ pages) and at about 150 pages in I could happily have given up. When I mentioned this on Twitter I was surprised to find that Nesbø wasn’t quite as widely worshipped as I had thought. I pressed on and it actually picked up in the middle, but towards the end it became harder to read. I found myself skipping descriptive passages & just trying to spot action and dialogue. I think there was a good story in there – but it was hidden somewhere in the 600 pages!

As well as not enjoying the writing I was also disappointed by the ending, which I thought was unsatisfactory in several ways (although I wouldn’t want to give anything away here).

I’m tempted to think that I can now cross Nesbø off my list – been there, read that, although I do think I might seek out another title but try to spot one which others have enjoyed more than The Redbreast. Is there someone who can make a convincing argument for pressing on with other titles?

You can see another review of this title at Reactions to Reading.

Score – 3/5