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(Final entry: SCHEPP)

ADLER-OLSEN. Jussi

         The “Department Q” series had me hooked from the first, but when I got to the “The Hanging Girl” (2015) I had to give up: it was simply too long for me! (this note: 2016).
“The Scarred Woman” (2017) is also overlong (450+pp., and could be shortened at no cost to the plot, the characterizations, etc.) but I stuck it out. It is indeed very good but I did not raise the grade above A in spite of its excellent qualities because the plot does become extremely implausible; also, there is one unconvincing ‘Dick Barton’ – see my review of Ahnhem’s “Victim”: Rose, an indispensable member of the original trio in Department Q, is in mortal danger for over 100 pages. I can not be ‘on the edge of my seat’ for so very long wihout some annoyance, and expect many readers with share my frustration (this note: Oct-Dec 2018).
       <>”The Absent One” (orig. 2012, transl. 2015). This takes place during Rose’s first season with Department Q. It is very, very well written but this is a stomach-turning catalogue of the deeds of a gang (five boys, one girl) who, starting at boarding school, commit acts of extreme violence on randomly-selected innocent victims; when they become adults the males torture and then leave the victims alive and the girl murders them. Three of the males, now much older and extremely rich, continue their spree at frequent intervals, often driving distances to select their random victims, and interspersing these with hunting down animals and watching them die. The female, now grown and living hand-to-mouth in lowly accommodations, is bent on wreaking revenge for their murder of a former member of the group, whom she loved. The story ends in a scene of total violence in a private zoo. I found this so very hard to read, given the endless scenes of gratuitous violence, that — in spite of the plot and the characters, all excellently portrayed — I could not but reduce the grade! (This note: February 2020).
“Victim 2117” (2019 (?), translation 2020) — I seldom find a book simultaneously as repellent and as admirable as this one. Admirable for its plot, its relevance, its structure, its character; repellent for its never-ending descriptions of imprisonment, murder, torture. Department Q has four members: leader Carl Mørk who is allowed the only humorous chapters; Assad, now revealed as an escapee from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Syria, and as now a highly-trained agent of the Danish Secret Service; Rose, here emerging from a nerve-shattering experience recounted in an earlier book and twice her former size; and the reticent Gordon. Victim 2117, Assad’s ‘godmother,’ is murdered on a Cyprus beach in her attempt to flee Syria, and the killer is Abu Ghraib’s most efficient torturer Ghaalib; the latter is fanatically seeking revenge on Assad, and Assad is fanatically seeking revenge on him. A Catalonian newspaper reporter, Joan Aiguader, is a witness to the killing; he follows Ghaalib to Frankfurt and Berlin and is captured there by him, and the latter also holds Assad’s wife and two daughters drugged and bound in wheelchairs. (Complex enough yet?) — Meanwhile in Sweden a crazed youth, Alexander, plays one video game for days and nights on end, taking a break from seeking to get to 2117 wins to behead his father with a scimitar and to bind his mother, and later a neighbour, to chairs; his aim is to rampage murderously through the Stockholm streets when he reaches the magic number. He tells Rose and Gordon of his aims; meanwhile Carl and Assad are on the trail of Ghaalib and a dozen-odd terrorists. We follow all of these mostly coincidental developments from the points of view of the six major characters. Fascinating — the last chapters are almost enjoyable! — but sickening. I did not enjoy this very long book at all, except for the ending. The many chapters about Alexander should have been omitted. Grade raised to A for the many positive qualities. This kind of nastiness will never get an A+ from me… (This note: March 2021).

AHNHEM,  Stefan
“Victim without a Face” (2015) see my review on Sara Ward’s blog, here repeated:
Stefan Ahnem’s Victim Without a Face is his first novel, but his previous writing experience (e.g., some of the Wallander TV scripts) has borne fruit: it is well-plotted and grabbed my attention from very early on. It has what may be called rave blurbs on the cover by the outstanding writers Michael Hjorth and Hans Rosenfeldt (the Sebastian Bergman series) and Ake Edwardson (the Erik Winter series); so, although almost every new mystery book has seemingly pretentious blurbs, the reader may have high expectations from this one. All such expectations were in my case fulfilled: I consider this an outstanding mystery — but I have serious reservations too.
Investigator Fabian Risk has been re-assigned from Stockholm after some dubious event there, and travels down with his children and wife to Helsingborg, his home town, to start afresh and also to try to bring his family life into order. Nothing at all new yet, plot-wise. Still officially on leave, he is called in to assist with a case of a very brutal murder of one of his former classmates, with a telling memento left at the scene: a class photo with the victim’s face crossed out. Soon a second equally brutal one — of a second classmate — is called in, and the photo is there again, with the second face covered in a large black X. Among the twenty-plus children on the photo is Risk; his girl-friend of the time; and the boy whom the two current victims used to bully mercilessly. It looks as if the murderer is obvious, but only if he can be traced: he seems to have vanished from Sweden without leaving the country.
Two hundred pages down, another four hundred to go! Fortunately, the pace heats up. We often read the killer’s thoughts; the scene shifts over the water to Denmark and back; dead bodies begin to accumulate in numbing quantities, each killed in an ingenious and hideous manner; and the plot takes many unexpected but ultimately logical twists. As long as one can stand many very unpleasant forensic details, this may indeed be regarded as ‘brilliant’ and ‘fabulous’ (to quote a third blurb from the cover.) Moreover, the location was new to me, and was made an interesting one. Why then do I have reservations?
First, the length: 588 pages. Edwardson’s blurb includes the sentence “I read it at one sitting”. If we take this literally, it is highly unlikely. If he managed one page a minute, he will have spent nearly three days-and-nights on this task, without sleep, without bathroom breaks, and having to be spoon-fed. I found it so good that I did read it more quickly than the average two mysteries, but it was still a huge effort, as well as being heavy and unwieldy. Yes, the chosen plot requires a lot of detail, and yes, it is not difficult to read, but still I think careful editing would have pared it down to below 500 pages (!) — even with what I think are necessary additions, as now explained.
Second, it stops too abruptly. I wanted to know what happened to Risk and his fractured family, how the rest of the detective team worked out the intricacies of the crimes, and the fate of the two Danish characters — the lazy and manipulative chief inspector and his rebellious (but crucial to the plot!) female subordinate. Frustratingly, none of this information is provided: the reader is left in mid-air.
Third, there are some very annoying “Dick Bartons”. This is my own name for “cliffhangers” in detective stories, when the reader is presented with a crucial point in the narrative and then has to wait for some (short or long) while for its resolution. I base the term on the radio show which I, and millions of other young Britons, listened to – every evening when possible! – between 1946 and 1951 (when I was 9 to 14 years old), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Barton). In this series, Dick and his side-kicks Jock and/or Snowy would be at the mercy of a maniac with a large knife, or in a locked room slowly filling with water, or hanging five storeys up from a fraying rope, or in a some other equally perilous plight — at the end (as I now remember) of every single episode (or, as is written nowadays on Facebook: Every. Single. Episode.) I find that in a mystery story Dick Bartons are acceptable and enjoyable, but they must (a) not be too obvious, (b) not be too numerous, and especially (c) not have resolutions for which readers wait too long. There are not too many Dick Bartons in Ahnhem’s book, but they are obvious, and one — where a member of Fabian Risk’s family sees the murderer in a reflection in his bedroom on page 301 and we find out his fate on page 502 — is, in my view, more than just excessive: on top of the great length and the too-sudden ending, it is, for me, unacceptable.
Given the real qualities of the book, this is a great, great pity: were it not for these reservations, I would rate this among the dozen best Scandinavian mysteries that I have ever read. Readers without those reservations will enjoy it immensely and unreservedly (!).
“Ninth Grave” (2016) excellent, but some of the same reservations!
“Eighteen Below” (original 2016, translation 2018). Excellent, with just the one major reservation: excessive length. The ending still rather abrupt, but there are few loose ends. And there are no “Dick Bartons”. The plot was ingenious; indeed, the plots were both ingenious — why did SA not write two books, one for each plot? Each would then have been of manageable size. However, the pace is exciting and this made the length more bearable. Grade raised to A+. (This note: March 2021)

ALSTERDAL, Tove 
“The Forgotten Dead” (2017). An outstanding thriller: extremely well-written, horrific subject, very pessimistic. Setting: USA, France, Portugal, Spain, Czechia; Sweden for about 5 pages. This kind of book is not my normal choice for “crime novel” since there is not really much of a mystery to be solved; there are many excellent thriller-writers out there and this is very probably one of the best such from Sweden. But given the locale, this not really “Swedish” according to my criteria, anyway. (this note: Apr-Jun 2018)

ALVTEGEN, Karin  
Rather too intense psychologically. (this note: 2016
“Shame” (2006): Excellent but very difficult reading! The two women involved have their respective burdens of remorse described in great, often unpleasant detail: May-Britt, the obese one, and Monika, the outwardly self-controlled one. I sympathized with each but could not share their self-imposed and unwarranted remorse. If the writing, as translated, were not so compelling this would be such painful reading that I would have given up! (this note: June 2019) Grade upped on the basis of the writing! (This note: May 2019)

ARNALDUR INDRIĐASON    
“Strange Shores” (2013) — I agree with Sarah’s blog review, but still find it too slow. (this note: Jan-Mar 2018).  

          “Outrage” (2011): My assessment upgraded. This one of his books that does not feature Erlendur, who is simply too bleak and (for em) uninteresting a person. “Outrage” features his 2nd-in-command, Elinborg, and she is “sympathique”, so I enjoyed the book a lot!  (this note: Jan-Mar 2018). 

         “Black Skies” (2012) — Erlendur is still absent. This time the featured detective is Sigurdur Ôli, an efficient but cold-hearted and unlikable man, one of whose fortés is breaking the rules. This is well-written, but there is not one character who is attractive, so it is difficult to enjoy the book.This was almost enough for me to downgrade Arnaldur’s mark — but not quite! (this note: May 2019).

         “The Shadow District” (published 1988 (!), translation 2017) — the first in a series, set partly in World War Two. This one keeps switching from 1940, when Reykjavik was thronged with U.S. ships and servicemen, among them one Icelandic Canadian; and the present, when this one character, who had gone back to Manitoba after 1945 and had soon returned to Iceland, was found suffocated. Back in 1940 we learn of two strangulations. The plot is well thought-out and interesting; but I was had to reduce Arnaldur’s mark from A to A-  (see my comments above!) because it is so very confusing.  Why oh why does he not head each chapter, as relevant, with “1940” and “2010”?!! 

          <>”The Shadow Killer” (published 1988 (!), translation 2018). — The second, but chronologically before “Shadow District” —  The two detectives meet in this story. This was (in my opinion), until the last two chapters, much better. The plot was interesting and very easy to follow; it involves Nazi-inspired “experiments” (investigations) into the measurements and characters of the children of criminals, a murder that is probably by mistaken identity, and a woman who is “no better than she should be”. Right at the end, as if AI had a deadline to keep, the story is unsatisfactorily concluded with the involvement of secret servicemen. (this note: Dec 2019). But for the ending, I would have raised AI’s mark!

“Reykjavík Nights” (2016, translation 2018). The title could have been “Erlendur’s First Case” — the time is when he was a young policeman, not yet a detective, and became obsessed with the death of a tramp who, it turns out, had not been a down-and-out for much of his life; and its interconnection with the disappearance of a married woman. Erlendur follows each clue through exhaustively and surprises his superiors by solving the two cases. Grade raised to its former A.

BJØRK, Samuel   
“I’m Travelling Alone” (2015) Read for the second time, 2020, to confirm my ranking. And confirm it does! This is an outstanding crime novel. The plot is complex but well-planned and well-described. Four six-year-old girls are found dead, and only Mia Kruger can understand the motive and the deliberately misleading clues. Will the perpetrator be located before the sixth young girl — the daughter of chief detective Holger Munch — dies? How is the very strange religious sect involved? I found one or two imperfections — one annoying ‘Dick Barton’, for instance — but they are easily overlooked. I seldom use the following epithet, but here it is deserved: Un-put-down-able! (this note: October 2920).

“The Owl Always Hunts at Night”, original 2015, translation 2017). Second rea-ding. Three years ago I wrote: “… excellent, like his first, but was too like his first. Also, I was not happy about so many people (one detective, several separate suspects) being psychologically traumatized, many of them by explicitly-described harrowing early childhoods that were inserted into and broke  up the narrative. I was too kind! This is not only “too like the first” but is really only a pale imitation of the first. It has the first’s good points (and they are indeed very good) but is impaired, not only by what has now been already mentioned, but also by some very over-dramatic writing. Short sentences. And I mean that. Very short. Phrases in italics. Quotations. Possibly. Random thoughts. Perhaps. — And these seem never-ending. Just as golf was once characterized as “A good walk spoiled”, this is a good story spoiled. Given its other advantages, I demote it from A+ only to A. Bjørk’s third will I hope restore his name in my estimation. (First note: 2017. This up-date: October 2020).

         “The Boy in the Headlights” (2019)

BLAEDEL, Sara 

         The ‘chronological’ order of events in the Rick/Lind series:

         WHY OH WHY are English versions of the Rick & Lind novels published OUT OF ORDER? ##1, 5 and 6 appear AFTER ## 7-8-9. Result: important parts of the plot of many books are already familiar. Am I alone in being annoyed by this? (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).

1.“Midnight Witness” (2018!) Given its date of publication (in translation, at least), I read this last in the series when it is chronologically first. I was disappointed: I felt it was very predictable. Also, the resolution comes close to breaking one of Father Knox’s “ten commandments”. Then I learned that it was written before ##2-9 (but only recently translated), I have therefore recanted and relented: SB deserves to be ‘A++”! (this note: Jan 2019).

2. “Call me Princess” = “Blue Blood and the Silent Woman”

3.“Only One Life” = “The Drowned Girl”

4. “Farewell to Freedom” = “The Night Women”

5. “The Running Girl” (2018) One investigative error bothered me: the person arrested in a major crime was not questioned about her familiarity with the murder scene and the presence there of the victims. She would have had to follow or observe them, and had she done this, she would have had no opportunity to buy the gasoline… But this is a quibble: I still rate this story very highly. The English version by Thom Satterlee is not quite good enough; obviously he is not a native speaker of any kind of English. No editing, again! (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).

 6. “The Stolen Angel” (2018) Brilliant, as I have come to expect. (this note: Jan-Mar 2018)

 7. “The Forgotten Girls” (2015).  This would have been good but the English of the translation, by Signe Rød Golly,  is — in a word — execrable. There is a turn of phrase on nearly every page which no native English-speaker would ever say. Also, a few sentences are totally incomprehensble. Attention is taken away, time after time, from the plot — was this novel better than the very annoying English version allows the reader to believe?! (this note: Jan-Jun 2017)

8.“The Killing Forest” (2016) Hurrah! The translator a native English-speaker: Mark Kline, and he does a perfect job: he does not intrude! This is one of the few detective novels that ‘I could not put down,’ to coin a phrase. It was rather too melodramatic but its plot, its pace and its suspense won out, and I have upgraded the author to A++ as a result. (this note: Jan-Mar 2018)

 9. “The Lost Woman” (2017). Mark Kline’s translation again, Deo gratias! This mystery, well-plotted,  starts very quickly and keeps the pressure up throughout. In addition, a very balanced discussion of a difficult subject: assisted dying. Altogether excellent! (this note: Jan-Mar 2018)

NEW SERIES, SET IN WISCONSIN
“The Undertaker’s Daughter” (2018) As a single book, rather a disappointment. The jacket and the inside blurb lead the reader to expect a well-written, fast-paced, thrilling Blaedel mystery (I should by now have learned that these blurbs are false advertizing). What we get is a well-written, fast-paced exposé of ‘The American Way of Death’, first described by Jessica Mitford in 1963. A Danish woman, Ilka, tries (and manages) to cope with the ‘too sentimentalized, highly commercialized, and, above all, excessively expensive’ funeral home business (Wikipedia on the 1963 book). I have lived in North America for 50+ years, so, even though Canada is (D.g.) a pale imitation of the USA in this respect, none of this gross extravagance was new to an immigrant from England; so the baffled disbelief that Danish readers must feel was all too familiar.  The locale is Racine, a Wisconsin town that is (well) described as grim and devoid of much interest (what must the inhabitants think?). A murder mystery is included, as what appears to be an afterthought: Ilka is little more than a bystander. I felt that the crime is there only as a reminder to Blaedel’s readership that her real talent lies elsewhere. The only suspense lies in the question: will Ilka continue managing the funeral parlour, or not? This is the first of a series (as is made clear on the last page) — a series which  presumably will feature a return to Bladel’s forté. So, I feel that, as it is not much of a crime novel, I should reduce this book from A++ to B+ or lower; but, for now, I will ‘wait and see’. I look forward to the next Rick & Lind book, #10 in that series (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).

“Her Father’s Secret” (2017). I have to reduce SB’s grade to A. I have enjoyed and admired her books so much but this is simply not up to the standard of her Rick-and-Lind crime novels. A reminder: I have to be consistent with my own criteria, and one is setting: I do not feel that SB is ‘at home’ in Wisconsin, and this affects her wrting. In addition, there are too many secrets divulged and it becomes a little too melodramatic. There will presumably be one more of the Racine WI books (SB’s come in threes) after which, I hope, we shall be back in Denmark.

“The Third Sister” (2018, translation 2020). On this showing, I now reduce SB’s grade to B+. This is not much more than a pot-boiler, replete with a series of very improbable events and characters. We start with a nun who is in fact a woman with a gun, notorious for a series of grisly crimes in Texas. We then have a long drive by the heroine (in a hearse) to Key West, Florida, and back to Racine, Wisconsin with the her long-lost father. If I had wanted to read the whole book, I would have kept a tally of who is who, who knows what, and who has or has not done what: these details were too much for my brain to cope with (see LEHTOLAINEN for examples of what was needed here). For good or, here I think for ill, SB’s writing is clear and fast-paced; but after about 80 pages I stopped, aware that the fast pace had been a smokescreen: I could not recall the details I have just mentioned. I then gave up, so this is not really a review. However, it is not a Scandinavian crime novel according to my own criteria anyway: it is set a long way from Denmark; does involve some Danish-Americans, but their Danishness is really by the way. One last comment: this reads like a piece of writing by a senior high-school student as a response to the instruction: “Write an unlikely story including a nun who isn’t, a long-lost relative, a failed funeral home, and a Latino gangster family. Set it in three widely-separated cities in the USA.” As such, it would have received a good grade. As a book by Sara Blaedel, however, it does not!

BÖRJLIND, Cilla & Rolf          
         “Spring Tide” (2012, transl. 2014). SECOND READING. In the five years since my first reading, I forgot most of this book; but the opening scene is one that is unforgettable. This has an outstanding plot and outstanding characters but is very complex and very long! If the authors had omitted, say, two or three of the subplots, a tighter and more cohesive novel would have resulted. During these five years I have read so many other good scandicrime books that I can put this one in  a better context, and because of these two faults I (reluctantly!) reduce the grade to A. (This note: December 2020)
Their 2nd  (“Third Voice”, 2015) not quite as good as their 1st  (“Spring Tide”, 2014), but still VVG (this note: 2016).

        IMPORTANT NOTE. The Borjlinds have written SIX books in this series, but the last four have not been put into English, as confirmed by a correspondent from the “Fantastic Fiction” web-page. This is a GREAT PITY!

BREKKE, Jørge
 “Where Monsters Dwell” = “Where Evil Lies” (2014): I have to give this a confused assessment. Excellent writing, but far too long-winded. An excellent plot, but it involves two time periods (16th C. and the present) and three geographical settings (Trondheim, Northern Italy and Richmond VA), and has not really necessary (if fascinating) digressions about, e.g., Edgar Allan Poe and anatomical theatres. Moreover the details of what the murderer does to the victims is gruesome in the extreme, and I cannot share what appears to be the author’s delight in describing them so vividly. On the other hand, several of the well-drawn characters are very likeable. I think it may deserve an A , but I will only give it a B+ (Torkil Damhaug!). Maybe his second will change my mind! (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).

         “Dreamless” (2015). Brekke’s confusion is now a thing of the past. All the action takes in place in and around Trondheim; there are two time-lines (1767 and the present) but they are kept distinct and the connection between the two becomes significant and clear. The writing is clear and vivid, the characterization is good, and the well-constructed plot is exciting. This certainly deserves up-grading to A. (this note: Jul-Sep 2018)

“The Fifth Element” (2013, Transl. 2017). As my old friend the geezer in the rickety rocking chair would say, “Jumping Jehosaphat!” This novel certainly jumps around, not as much in time or space as JB’s other two, but much more in frequency. In the first 100 pp. we leap ten times forwards and backwards, luckily every time preceded by a reference to “when it happened”. When what happened? Is it the explosion on p. 38, or are we being kept in suspense for something more sinister? I kept up my reading until p. 105 (just before Ch. 11, “Sometime, no-one knows exactly when”) and finally gave up: I needed a notepad to keep track of all the unanswered questions — e.g., who is “the” boy whom Felicia hides from his and her pursuer (pp. 97 ff.)? The same as “the boy” on p.7? Why is this man pursuing them? What is Odd Singsaker being interrogated about, as if he were a criminal? The list of queries keeps getting longer, and at the same time the narrative keeps jumping from “x days before it happened” to “y minutes after it happened,” flashbacks and flashforwards ad nauseam, and I still had no idea what the “it” referred to. Give me a straightforward narrative any day! This performing-flea act can wait for a cleverer reader than me. I downgraded JB to B-, and I think I was being generous. (This note: December 2020).

DAHL, Alex
<> The first two I recalled as so very good that I got hold of them again and refreshed my memory! The author is half Norwegian but writes such extraordinarily good English that I am jealous.

<>”The Boy at the Door” (2018) is indeed very good but the plot is extremely intricate with several twists and turns. I could never have guessed, after the first 50 or so pages, how this would develop: wgar appears at first to be an ordinary housewife has very dark ‘backstory’. In places, the story takes some effort to follow, since it is not always clear whose voice we are listening to. Nevertheless, I awarded this A.

<> “The Heart Keeper” (2019) on the other hand has a simple plot but this is so arresting that I found that I could not wait to find out the outcome: the mother of a young girl who dies and provides a heart for a transplant becomes pathologically obsessed with the girl who receives the new heart and befriends the mother of the latter: what are her intentions? This is the kind of story that remains with the reader long afterwards, and the author deserves A+; at this rate, her third maybe graded even higher.

“Playdate” (2020) is so absolutely outstanding that AD is now in the group of authors with A++. The story unfolds slowly at first (while never losing interest!) and gradually speeds up. The plot is intricate but nevertheless excellent, the characterizations are excellent, the descriptions of the locales are very good. I have one reservation but a very minor one. The dénouement is so rushed that it is almost confusing (I had been reading fast because of the thriller-like quality, now I had to read very slowly, and jamming on the brakes was not easy). Still, this is a trifle and does not detract from the overall excellence of this novel. [This note: January 2021].

DAHL, Arne       
Excellent. (this note: 2016).
“To the Top of the Mountain” (2000, translation 2014). As I read this, I realized (a) that I had not read it before, (b) how really excellent it was. There are some stomach-turning details but they are alleviated by the humorous portions of and comments in the novel. I could quibble about the fact that every member of the Intercrime Team is absolutely brilliant, and the very confusing passage where Chavez reconstructs the deadly clash between rival crooks, but given the quality of the whole novel I could easily forgive these faults.  If any crime writer deserves to be elevated to the top group, those with A++, it is Arne Dahl. [This note: December 2020]

DAHL, Kjell Ola                        

         “Last Fix” (2009) I enjoyed the humour and the plot was excellent, but the twist at the end involved not only an infrequently-mentioned character (acceptable) but a motive that was introduced at the last moment (unacceptable!). (this note: Jan-Jun 2017).

         “Lethal Investments” (2011). The first-written of his crime novels, not the first to be translated. This one I did not enjoy as much as “Last Fix”. I found the humour forced; the plot is, again, excellent, but the characterization is vague and the final step in the detection results from a chance remark by the junior detective’s girl friend. (this note: March 2019). Grade unchanged at B+.

“Faithless”  (2017). I found this difficult to read and a bit of a struggle to get through — even though the plot and characters are well-developed and -described. The two main detectives are unpleasant, another detective walks open-eyed into a trap; worst of all, firstly, too many events are left up to the reader’s imagination, and secondly, in the last chapter the fate of one of the two main detectives is left not properly, or justly, resolved. Still B+!

<> “The Ice Swimmer” (2018). A dead man is lifted from the freezing waters of Oslo Harbour just before Christmas, Det. Lena Stigersand’s stressful life suddenly becomes very complicated: she is dealing with a cancer scare, a stalker and an untrustworthy boyfriend already; now she has a murder in which both a politician and Norway’s security services may be involved. Luckily her colleagues Gunnarstranda and Frølich assist her. I found the 3 detectives and the several plots and sub-plots a little confusing, but the detection is excellent. Grade raised to A-!

DAMHAUG, Torkil

         “Medusa” (2015). This novel left me confused. The plot, the setting, the characterization — all are outstanding; the enormous misdirection is brilliant; and yet I did not really enjoy it. Is it the most unpleasant chief detective? Is it the over-emphasis on psychology? Is it the (obviously deliberate) gaps in the continuity? Or is it (as I suspect) the fact that the author breaks one of Ronald Knox’s “Ten commandments of detective fiction”— which I will not reveal here, lest I spoil the book for anyone? Anyway: I think it may deserves an A+, but I will only give it a B-. Maybe his second will change my mind! (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).

EGHOLM, Elsebeth

           “Three Dog Night” (2011, transl. 2013.) First: the title — mentioned just once, p. 3, referring to an unusually cold night. The reference is to the title of the rock group (1967-), devised by a group member’s girl-friend on the basis of one magazine article about Australian aborigines who, reputedly, kept warm on cold nights by covering themselves with one, two or three dingos. This patronizing reputation is probably spurious (my thanks to Diana Pascoe of Brisbane Qld.); the title was probably devised for effect, as was the cover blurb, “Denmark’s Queen of Crime”. Sara Blaedel was recently demoted in my estimation, but is still higher in line for this throne than EE — and behind Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis! — But let me ignore the misleading gimmicks. This story is long and difficult to read. Not for well-devised way in which the several leading figures, detective and criminals, interact; not for the extremely clever plot, although it is I think too convoluted. My negative judgment is based, first, on the unnecessarily brutal descriptions: one was extremely stomach-churning. Second, on the superficiality of the characterizations and the motivations. Third, on the style — this veers to and from the captivating to the banal: was I reading an expert or an amateur? I grade this as B — She seems able to write well, I expect her next to be better. Has she read the Roslund-Hellström books? Emulation of their style would have benefited her — see my remarks about Cell 21!
“Dead Souls” (2014). I read just half and then gave upI was expecting an improvement on her first, see above, and much of what I read was enjoyable enough. However, my second and third criticisms of “Three Dog Night” were not addressed: superficial characterizations and motives unchanged; and a very strange style, as before. (This may derive from the fact that the English is apparently EE’s own; it is very good, but from time to time is clearly non-native. I suggest that she does not know an English cliché when she uses one). As for the first, I was waiting for a nasty description of the “Catalan garotte” being applied to someone; it is used on a novice nun (!) before the plot gets under way, but her first book made me fear for a second instance. Grade unchanged: B. – A Note on the title. Over-long books, like this one, make me ask (see “Criteria”) ‘Who does this author think they are, Dostoyevsky?’ Choosing this classic title from Russian 19thC fiction makes me add, ‘Who does she think she is, Gogol’?’ (Note that living where I do, among so many Ukrainian Canadians, tempts me to call him by his original name, Hohol’.) Plus: she is still being labelled, on the book cover, as “Denmark’s Queen of Crime”. Caveunt lectores!

EDWARDSON, Åke
ConfessionI included comments on some of this author’s books in my blog previously; early this year (2021) I realised that they had all been deleted. I am reading and re-reading those of his novels that were still available. 

              “Sun and Shadow” (1999, translation 2005). One horrific double-murder. From the start, two characters whose are so very recurrent that I soon realised that one or the other could be the murderer, but are not suspected by detective Erik Winter and his team for a long time. Eventually, several suspects. Two teenagers, one of whom turns out to be a key witness. — All the ingredients for straightforward detective story, but (a) the back-story of Winter, his pregnant wife and his dying father; and (b) for me very annoyingly, frequently-occurrent “floating’ sections where an unidentified male visits the crime scenes, a man who must be the murderer. These sections are not signalled so I spent many paragraphs wondering if this was yet another such section, or something else. The story as whole deserves a low A or a high B, and because of the frequency of these ‘annoying’ sections I settle on B+
“Death Angels” (1997, translation 2009). I found myself having to infer what was going on. One or two murders in London? One or two in Göteborg? When it became clear, I realised that I was reading a very innovative and well-plotted mystery. However, I still found drawbacks. Too much time is spent on Erik Winter’s music searches in London, too much on the young detective Bergenhem, too much on the semi-retired crook Bolger, not enough on the detective team and their work. Grade unchanged.
“Frozen Tracks” (2001, transl. 2007). Very much better than the others of his that I have read. We know who it is that is abducting young children: we have complete chapters in his rather simple-minded words. At least at first, he does not harm them in any way but takes one of their playthings as a memento… At the same time young male students are being struck over the back of the head, in one case almost fatally. The trail visits a bleak flat countryside for vital clues. Both cases are finally linked and solved. The plot and the characters are excellent. A-!!

DVD set: Kommissarie (Inspector) Winter DVD Set with four episodes: Beautiful Country, Room No. 10, Almost Dead Man, The Last Winter. Just the second is available as a book in English. — I watched three then gave up. Beautiful Country was more of a cops-and-robbers story than anything like the Erik Winter books I have read, and the resolution of murders of immigrants hangs on chance: a young boy being the only witness. Room No. 10 concerns a suicide by hanging in a hotel room and then, 18 years later, what is apparently an identical suicide in the same room; both are attended by Winter. This mini-movie is shot as what we used to call an “artsy-fartsy film”: often it is unclear which suicide is which and who and is who. Almost Dead Man starts as a procedural investigation into a murder and an abandoned car, and also what was considered an accidental drowning many years earlier; but shifts into a story with fights and punch-ups and gunplay. I did not enjoy these three and did not attempt the fourth. If you wish to view these stories anyway, they are in Swedish but have very legible sub-titles in English

EGHOLM, Elsebeth

           “Three Dog Night” (2011, transl. 2013.) First: the title — mentioned just once, p. 3, referring to an unusually cold night. The reference is to the title of the rock group (1967-), devised by a group member’s girl-friend on the basis of one magazine article about Australian aborigines who, reputedly, kept warm on cold nights by covering themselves with one, two or three dingos. This patronizing reputation is probably spurious (my thanks to Diana Pascoe of Brisbane Qld.); the title was probably devised for effect, as was the cover blurb, “Denmark’s Queen of Crime”. Sara Blaedel was recently demoted in my estimation, but is still higher in line for this throne than EE — and behind Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis! — But let me ignore the misleading gimmicks. This story is long and difficult to read. Not for well-devised way in which the several leading figures, detective and criminals, interact; not for the extremely clever plot, although it is I think too convoluted. My negative judgment is based, first, on the unnecessarily brutal descriptions: one was extremely stomach-churning. Second, on the superficiality of the characterizations and the motivations. Third, on the style — this veers to and from the captivating to the banal: was I reading an expert or an amateur? I grade this as B — She seems able to write well, I expect her next to be better. Has she read the Roslund-Hellström books? Emulation of their style would have benefited her — see my remarks about Cell 21!

        “Dead Souls” (2014). I read just half and then gave up! I was expecting an improvement on her first, see above, and much of what I read was enjoyable enough. However, my second and third criticisms of “The Dog Night” were not addressed: superficial characterizations and motives unchanged; and a very strange style, as before. (This may derive from the fact that the English is apparently EE’s own; it is very good, but from time to time is clearly non-native. I suggest that she does not know an English cliché when she uses one). As for the first, I was waiting for a nasty description of the “Catalan garotte” being applied to someone; it is used on a novice nun (!) before the plot gets under way, but her first book made me fear for a second instance. Grade unchanged: B. – A Note on the title. Over-long books, like this one, make me ask (see “Criteria”) ‘Who does this author think they are, Dostoyevsky?’ Choosing this classic title from Russian 19thC fiction makes me add, ‘Who does she think she is, Gogol’?’ (Note that living where I do, among so many Ukrainian Canadians, I think I should call him by his original name, Hohol’.) Plus: she is still being labelled, on the book cover, as “Denmark’s Queen of Crime”. Caveunt lectores!

EKBÄCK, Cecilia.

         “(In the Month of) The Midnight Sun” (2016). Set in a remote village in Lapland in 1855: time and place are easy to appreciate, and this makes the very unpleasant murders and the unravelling of the case a difficult but rewarding read. (This note: 2016).

         “Wolf Winter” (2015). Set a century earlier but in the same location, this was too similar for me to “Midnight Sun”, and is too slow and has too much of the supernatural for my taste. Not a joy to read, in spite of its obvious excellence. (This note: Jan 2019)

ENGER, Thomas

         “Burned” (2011) Graded “A-“. This is vividly, wryly and sympathetically written.The story is intricate but the two (or three) plots are, I found, too loosely connected. Most important: one of the significant perpetrators is not introduced convincingly  or early enough (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).

“Scarred” (2014) Grade raised to “A”. See Sarah Ward’s blog for a good description. I really enjoyed this book and agree with her summary: “the book was a well-written and          satisfyingly complex read.” (this note: Jul-Sep 2018).

  “Cursed” (2017). Grade raised to “A+”. The more I read of Enger’s books about Henning Juul, the more I enjoy them.  Intricate, well-plotted, exciting, and a good sense of place – the county of Vestfold. (this note: Mar 2019)

“Killed” (2017) After “Cursed” I had high expectations. For the first third of the novel, these were dashed, and on those grounds I reduced his grade to “A”. In two phrases: too many characters, too much blood. No fewer than 34 are listed before the story starts, of them 19 more and 15 less important — a count that omits one. I had to keep a second bookmark in the pages where they are identified, and had to turn back to it probably fifty times in the first half of the book. True, the most important sort themselves out, and at least twelve are dead by the end of the story. Most of them summarily executed but a few meet very unpleasant deaths. Henning Juul, the hero, escapes death two (or is it three?) times. In addition, the whole book is a “Dick Barton” from start to finish (see my review of Ahnem’s “Victim”). All of this said, the plot is intricate and completely convincing and exciting, therefore still a strong “A”! (this note: Mar 2019)

FOSSUM, Karin

         Her very first, “In the Darkness”, English version not available until 2012, was a real joy to read. (this note: 2016). See below!

         “Calling out for you” (2005!) I am catching up on unread Fossums and enjoying every page. This one is tense and tender almost from page 1, and almost too realistic. My heart was in my mouth: would a certain person turn out to be guilty, after all? I shall read all that I have missed in the next few months! I have raised her mark to A+ (this note: Oct-Dec2018)

         “Black Seconds” (2013) A+ raised to A++! This time, I thought “who dunnit” was obvious, but I was wrong. And KF’s style is simply delicious. Note that everychapter ends with a very short sentence, often fewer than 6 words. They typify the whole book: even when it is not really short, it feels short, it goes by so fast. Really, really enjoyable! (this note: Oct-Dec2018)

          “He Who Fears the Wolf” (2003) How did I miss this one? This is Fossum’s second. Completely different from the other ones by her that I have read: longer, apparently rambling; even what seems like a lengthy digression has, in the end, a purpose. After the first few chapters very little happens but my enjoyment was maintained at a high level; and the writing alone is a joy. A++ deserved. (this note: Apr 2019)

       “The Caller” (2014). Another outstanding book. I rejoice in having several Fossums (! Fossa ?) yet to read. This one is really excellent. The young perpetrator of what he considers ‘pranks’ comes gradually into Sejer’s and Skarre’s sights, all of them leaving heartache and broken relationships and even physical collapse; he eventually admits to all but the worst two, but right at the end apparently commits suicide — but the reader is left wondering whether he is guilty of them all and whether it was in fact a homicide. Throughout, all the characters are very vividly drawn. An amazing book!

       “In the Darkness” (original 1995, translation 2012). I read this again after about 5 years (see above). Yes, a joy to read in all aspects — plot, characters, style; so much so, I might have made an exception and added an extra “+” for KF, making her the only “A+++” on my list, but for one point. This is a 390-page edition, and on p. 155 a “flashback” begins which is the opposite of a “flash”: it  continues till p. 363. Annoyingly, it has no overt warning such as “Two weeks earlier” and for a long while I was quite confused as to the time frame!

       “Hellfire” (2014, transl. 2017). The crime — murder — is discovered in the first chapter. Thereafter we alternate between the murdered mother and her small son, and a second mother and her grown son. With no other characters (other than the detectives), this is not a “whodunnit” but a “whydunit”, and the answer to “why” comes suddenly and inexorably at the very end. I was, indeed, taken by surprise but then realized that I should have expected the ending…! (This note: December 2020).

FRIIS, Agnete /writing solo/

         “What My Body Remembers” (2015) Really excellent — in spite of the uneven pace (first 2/3 too slow a build-up to the last tense 1/3) and the small cast of characters, which made the most guilty party too obvious. Much of the story is unpleasant and many of the characters are, in general, not very likeable. Nevertheless, I recommend this strongly (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).        ‘The Summer of Ellen” (2019) This does not really belong on these pages, there is so little that is “mystery”. The narrator vividly describes his fascination, as a mid-teenager, with Ellen, a young woman, and does indeed try to discover what happened to her, but the only real mystery concerns the murder of another young woman. This is clarified almost in passing, as is Ellen’s fate, right at the end of the story. Most of the novel is a lyrical description of a farm in Jutland in different seasons, with many unpleasant details about the raising and slaughtering of chickens and pigs. It is beautifully written. I will not change AF’s mark since this does not really belong in the “Crime” category

GERHARDSEN, Carin

         “Last Lullaby” (2015). Very good: few suspects, but a satisfying solution. Well-drawn characters and a plausible plot. Spoiled, for me, by the psychologizing: not as far as the major characters are concerned (where it does belong), but with respect to the investigators, nearly all of whom have serious problems. I like to get to know the team of detectives, but I do not need so much about their mental histories. Therefore, a B+ rating until I read more of her work. (this note: Jul-Sep 2018)

          “Gingerbread House” (2012). This was exceptional, and — exceptionally! — I raised her grade to A. The plot is deceptively simple and for a time (how long will depend on the reader: I am rather gullible!) one is led along the wrong track… The motive for the murders harks back to severe bullying at preschool (to be avenged, or not?); I myself was severely bullied and teased  — not, D.g., at age 6, but when twice that age — and could sympathize deeply with the affected characters. This probably resulted in my approving the author so highly; when I appraise her next, maybe I’ll be more objective! — All the other major characters are very well drawn as is life in this part of Sweden. The preschool in question is in Katrineholm, which (not coincidentally) is Gerharden’s home, a small town about 75 km from Stockholm; everyday life in Södermanland is described very vidividly, so this book definitely has a ‘sense of place.’ (This note: Mar 2019.)

GREBE, Camilla (writing solo). Without her psychologist sister, CG writing on her own appeals to me much more, (so far at least).

“After She’s Gone” (2017, translation 2019). I really enjoyed this book. We hear alternately the voices of the detective Malin and the teenager Jake, with the latter reading excerpts from the diary of another detective, Hanne. The last-named is losing her memory, and Jake cannot divulge the fact that he has her diary because he is ashamed of his being a cross-dresser and was wearing s dress when he acquired it. The tiny claustrophobic community, its few inhabitants and their attitude to the Syrian refugees who are sent to live in their midst; the discovery of first a set of bones and then a new body; the small group of detectives trying to unravel the mysteries… all are well-described and well-interwoven, and even if the ending is rather over-dramatic I did not object. Quite definitely an A!

GREBE, Camilla and Åsa TRÄFF.

            The authors are sisters; AT is a psychologist. Siri Bergmann, the chief character in two of the novels, is a psychological therapist.

            “Some Kind of Peace” (2009, translation 2012). I can almost describe this whole story in 10 words that begin with M: MOTIVES … MALPRACTICE? MISUNDERSTANDING? MALICE. MISCHIEF. MANIPULATION. MISTRUST. MURDER. MAGNIFICENT MISE-EN-SCÈNE! … … In more detail: The very clever plot involves a person intimidating psychiatrist Siri Bergman by gradually escalating home invasions, the abduction of her cat, murders that at first appear to have been initiated or even performed by her… These give rise to speculations by her friends and a detective as to the perpetrator — who is of course finally unmasked. Interspersed are therapy sessions with patients most of whom are involved in the nasty events. The well-plotted story is very intense and builds to an exciting climax, but the unending emphasis on psychological problems does get tedious. Also, when the murderer is unmasked (at the very end of the story, on p. 290 of 305 pp.) the motive is one not hitherto described — what should be considered another “cardinal sin.” Throughout, the murderer’s thoughts are presented (in italics),which, since they are an integral part of the plot, is not  a ‘cardinal sin;’ but occasionally they disclose the plot in advance, and this such a sin. But for these faults, I would have awarded an A; because of them, I award a B+.

“More Bitter than Death(2010, translation 2013). Therapists Siri and Aina are back, overseeing a group session with four women who have been victims of violence. Siri in two minds about her policeman lover, and now very confused because she is pregnant. The book begins with a horrific scene of 5-year-old Tilda seeing the boots of the person who is kicking her mother to death. Later there is a disappearance, and much later the abduction of Tilda and more murders. Against this backdrop, the therapy group meet, and one of them is also murdered. — Most of the chapters are extremely depressing, but after the second murder my interest woke up… The identity of the murderer is revealed at the very end, with Siri and the abducted Tilda trapped in a burning house. And then on the very last page, “Eight months earlier” one member of the therapy group persuades the mentally-challenged future murderer to “do anything, … even if it [is] really horrible.” — The story is mostly slow as well as depressing, but perks up in its later chapters. Grade unchanged: a solid B+. (This note: March 2021)

HIEKKAPELTO, Kati              

         Her second, “The Defenceless” (2014). If she spent more time on her excellent plot and less on the main character’s introspection (which some readers may like!), this might have been an A rather than an A-. I have now read this again and find the number of characters confusing and the style too melodramatic. Maybe even A- is over-marked! (this note: Jan-Jun 2017, up-dated June 2019).

HJORTH, Micael & Hans ROSENFELD

         “Dark Secrets” aka “Sebastian Bergman” (2012). The Fantastic Fiction website writes: “A page-turning atmospheric thriller to rival the very best of Jo Nesbø, Henning Mankell and Steig Larsson”. This is rubbish, obviously provided by the publishers.  I gave the story an A, however: the ‘atmospheric’ quality is outstanding, the detection interesting, the detective himself a little ‘over the top’. (This note: before 2016).

           “The Man Who Watched Women” (trans. 2015). Excellent: a deeper understanding, and dislike, of the “hero” Sebastian Bergman. Mark raised to A+.

         “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (2012, trans. 2016). Mark downgraded to A! The plot is outstanding but towards the end so many bodies pile up, and so quickly, that is becomes ridiculous. Also Bergman’s character is show to be utterly despicable, and most of the other personae are not much better.

<>The Silent Girl” (2017). Mark upgraded again! A family is murdered, the killer vanishes, Bergman has no suspects — until he finds that a young girl was a witness, but has disappeared. The bulk of the story has to do with finding her before the murderer does (and this part is exciting) and then persuading this traumatized child to talk. Very enjoyable! (Oct. 2020)

HOLT, Anne                

         Just caught up on “No Echo” (2000). Brilliant, except that nobody (not even Hanne!) behaves rationally, and people appear & disappear as if in a French farce. (this note: 2016)

        “What Never Happens” (2004, transl. 2008). Not read until 2020! This was a great disappointment, given how much I liked AH’s other books. Not only are the (apparently, serial) murders and their detection interspersed with far, far too much of the bickering between detective Adam Stubo and his partner Johanne Vik, but AH breaks one of the cardinal rules (see “Criteria”). I therefore demoted her from A++ to A+, even though this is what may be considered one of her earlier novels and, perhaps, should therefore be excused. (This note: November 2020).

         “Beyond the Truth” (2016) is uneven: starts with too little happening, finishes with too much;  but ultimately VG. This is a must-read before “1222” (2007) if possible.      (this note: 2016)      

         “Odd Numbers” (2017) better than “Beyond the Truth”. But still not worth an extra + (this note: Jan-Jun 2017).

         “In Dust and Ashes” (2017) even better than the last. Excellent and exciting plotting. The two quirky main detectives (Anne Wilhelmsen and Henrik Holme) are now close friends of mine!  I have added an extra “+” and Anne Holt is now one of my tiny group of top-ranked authors. (This note: Jul-Sep 2018)

HORST, Jørn Lier       

         “Caveman” (2015) starts off with a plod but keeps getting better (this note: before 2016).

         “Ordeal” (2016) not as good as his last. The only ordeal is indeed very nasty but lasts only a few hours. The detective-grandfather follows a rather predictable investigation through to its conclusion. (This note: Apr-Jun 2018).

         “The Hunting Dogs” (2014) I read this five years ago and had forgotten how good it isWhile Wisting is trying to clear his name, his journalist daughter investigates a murder, and soon the two enquiries intertwine. Very gripping and well-written. Well worth its A. (This note: Jun 2019).

<>”The Katharina Code” (2018). On October 9th each year Chief Inspector William Wisting takes out the files from when Katarina Haugen disappeared 25 years ago. Every year he looks at the papers from the unsolved case and visits her husband, Martin, who over the years has gone from prime suspect to a good friend. But this year, his house stands empty; he too is also missing. That same day, a investigator from Oslo, Adrian Stiller, comes to see Wisting. He believes that the kidnap case he’s working on has ties to Haugen. He soon puts Wisting in a very difficult position: he is to act as bait to bring in Martin, who has become his friend. Again, gripping and well-written (if maybe a little predictable). (This note: October 2020)

       “The Cabin” (2018, translation 2019). Not enjoyable or exciting until the final 50 pp. (of close to 400). The actual cabin figures at the beginning and then is burnt to the ground; the rest of the book follows a team of experts working out the story behind its original contents — enormous sums of money, which an honoured left-wing politician should not have been hiding. The plot is plausible and clever, but the detection is very, very laboured, especially in the first half of the book. Grade reduced to A–! (This note: December 2020).

TV drama: “WISTING”. I watched this BBC production on Acorn TV, available in Canada on Apple TV. Horst is one of the ‘Executive Producers’. There are three stories intertwined: (1) “The Caveman”, (2) “Hunting Dogs” and (3) another involving a serial killer from the USA with Norwegian roots who has come to Norway and continued his murder spree. In the third case, two FBI agents are also involved. The drama is in eight episodes; there is a clean break after the first four, in which (1) and (3) are cleared up. An excellent and very enjoyable production, but slow in places. (This note: October 2020)

JOENSUU, Matti

         “Priest of Evil” (2006). In part, I found this very difficult to read. The language in some (not all) of the chapters is often oblique; the original Finnish may well be poetic, but faced with the English version I kept feeling that it was pretentious (maybe  this just shows my lack of literary appreciation). The murderer lives under a outcrop in downtown Helsinki and we get introduced to the imaginary deity whom he worships and for whom he frequently kills (without being seen — I almost add “of course”). In addition, he can realistically feign being dead and can hypnotize young people in minutes. This makes the book very close to the ‘fantastic literature’ that I avoid reading.  However, I  felt duty bound to read it all, but did so wiithout pleasure. After being confused by three names (Mikko, Matti, Mäki), annoyed by the way a bumbling detective makes a fundamental error, and frustrated by the fate of the murdering madman, I found the amost-tragic last chapter pointless. This book was shortlisted for one major award and nominated for another; I cannot think why! (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).                

JUNGSTEDT, Mari

         “Double Silence” (2014) No change from A-. An excellent crime novel, written for a Swedish readership, with much reference to Ingmar Bergman. I watched and admired this director 50-plus years ago but I never enjoyed his films much (except ‘Wild Strawberries’, perhaps). This story has a very very slow build-up, descriptions of events and food that would have been far better if they had not been so long-winded, and much too much (for me) of  Bergman’s home district, the Bergman festival, etc.. Partly hidden behind all of this: the crimes, the detective and his crew and the journalists — known from previous Jungstedts — the descriptions of Gotland and the cast of suspects: all of these are very good indeed. The baby guillemot section is fascinating! (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).

KAABERBØL, Lene & FRIIS, Agnete

         “The Considerate Killer”(2016)  as brilliant as the three preceding books (“The Boy in the Suitcase”, 2011; “Invisible Murder” 2012; “Death of a Nightingale”, 2013). I can’t wait for their next! (this note: 2016)

KAABERBØL, Lene /writing soloSetting: Eastern France, about 1900

         “Doctor Death” (2015) really excellent; though occasionally too sexually explicit for me, the plot and the settings are really first-rate (this note: Jan-Jun 2017).

         “A Lady in Shadows” (2017) more of the same; this time medically explicit and from time to time quite upsetting. The main perpetrator rather too obvious, but the “how” and the “why” are puzzling even when the “who” is not. Plot very good, setting outstanding; A+ but not A++ (this note: Jan-Mar 2018).

KALLENTOFT, Mons   

         “Midwinter Sacrifice” (2010) I would have enjoyed this if (a) the plot was not signalled early on, (b) there had been far less of the “train-of-thought” narrative, and (c) the disembodied children’s voices (2 living, 2 dead) had not kept intruding. I skipped the last part! (this note: 2016).

KEPLER Lars    
  (Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril)

         “Sandman” (2012) After their 3rdbook I upped their grade. In equal parts horrifying and fantastically well-plotted. The most easy-to read 490-pager I have read for years! (this note: 2016).

         “Stalker” (2016) The first 50 pages were all horror and told in minute detail. Looking at the length — 500-odd pages — I gave up and reduced their grade; I have other books to read! (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).

KOPPEL, Hans

         “She’s Never Coming Back”  (2011) His first, and definitely an A; if the next is as good, he will be an A+. This is a believable and frightening story, well-plotted, and fast reading. I would not call it a “thriller” (as the silly cover does), but it is certainly a page-turner. One tiny quibble: are there cops in Gothenburg who are really as incompetent as those described here? (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).

         “You’re Mine Now” (2012) — Extremeley disappointing; I have reduced his mark to C. This too is not a “thriller” and is indeed not very thrilling, except for pp. 323-26 at the very end. The young psychopath does not (in spite of what the book cover seems to tell us) abduct and imprison his victim; he seduces and then stalks her, making her life miserable and the reader annoyed at his and her reported feelings and thoughts. The psychological “insights’ are shallow and I found them boring.(this note: Jan 2019).

LÄCKBERG, Camilla.  

         “The Hidden Child” (2011). I read this three years ago and remember it as very good, worth more than the B+ for which I had it listed. I have changed this to A- temporarily. (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).

          “The Drowning” (2012) I have marked Lackberg down. The characters and the plot are excellent, and — until the last 50 pages (this is a long novel!) I was feeling very positive — but … but …  Ronald Knox’s “Ten commandments of detective fiction” should have been “Eleven”: the last being that the perpetrator should never be … what the perpetrator is in this book. When I realized the answer, I knew I had had enough clues to guess the identity, but still felt cheated. (this note: Jul-Sep 2018)

         “The Lost Child” (2012) I have restored her A-. While she writes such very long novels, I do not expect to mark her any higher: this could, I think, have been 25% shorter and not suffered in the process. Moreover, the number of characters is almost overwhelming: 30 different in the first 40 pages, virtually all with single names (almost always, first names). They are well-described individuals, but the plot keeps jumping around, an implicit warning that the nearly 500 pages will be complicated. One huge plus for me was location: Fjällbacka is a real place and I am now getting to know it, as also I am getting to know the team of detectives. Also, the plot is very well-constructed and, after a while, does keep one’s interest. The indications of the indentity of the principal perpetrator are all there, whether the reader guesses or not. Altogether: extremely good! (this note: Jul-Sep 2018)

         “Buried Angels” (2014). Should I reduce her mark to A-, I wondered. This is another too-long novel (470 pp.).  Why not? Somehow, this time, she kept my interest more alive; most of the large number of characters were for me recognizable from the last novel, and they fit well into the plot, which is developed adroitly. The identity of the guilty character slowly becomes clear, and is quite believable. Why should I reduce it? There is a too much melodrama for me. Also, having this many characters results in all except about a dozen (almost half!) being only thumb-nail, cardboard sketches… (this note: Dec 2018)

        “The Ice Child” (2016). Warning! The title is not a translation of the very oblique original (“Lion-Tame-Years”) and the cover is ridiculous. First, the girl is a teenager, not a child. Second, she is walking along a path (unless she is a basketball star, it is about 3’ wide), and is suddenly knocked down by an oncoming car. Third, it is indeed January, but “ice” is not involved. The publishers may manage to sell more books with this deception, but they do not deserve to.— It is shorter than her others but the plot is well-developed (if really unpleasant) and the surprises are grounded in what has gone before. The guilty character(s) is/are not difficult to guess but this does not really matter. Almost worth a ‘raise’ to A!

LAHLUM, Hans-Olav              

         Fascinating books: different, v. clever; but far too slow and deliberate.               

         “Chameleon People” (2016) simply toolong. After a time the tiny details get boring. Who cares about the exact time the hero, time after time, wakes up, gets up, leaves for work, arrives, &c., &c. …? (this note: 2016).

LARSSON, Åsa

        Nothing read since “The Second Deadly Sin” of 2013. The Rebecka Martinsson series stays in my memory as rather slow, but nonetheless excellent.

         “My First Murder” (2012) – Her first detective novel. Seven suspects introduced all at once; not well differentiated for several chapters: I found the names confusing, and expect all non-Finns to have same problem. A believable beginner female police detective. Anyway: good traditional kind of mystery, updated with modern city problems (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).

LEHTOLAINEN, Leena

         “My First Murder” (2012) – Her first detective novel. Seven suspects introduced all at once; not well differentiated for several chapters: I found the names confusing, and expect all non-Finns to have same problem. A believable beginner female police detective. Anyway: good traditional kind of mystery, updated with modern city problems (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).

         “Her Enemy” (2012) – Her second. Nine suspects, again difficult to differentiate given the problem of names, some of them similar (cf. Joensuu!). However, there is a list of characters at the beginning which obviates this problem. This is another ‘traditional’ kind of mystery. and although the guilty party can be guessed, enough suspicion falls on many others for their identity to be cloaked. It was so refreshing  for me to read a really satisfying ‘traditional’ mystery with so few ‘thrillerish’ moments! I raised her mark to A. (this note: Jan 2019.)

          “Copper Heart”, the third in the Maria Kallio series: original 1994, translated version 2013.  Again, a list of names at the beginning, three cheers (cf. Hiekkapalto, whose story is too confusing precisely because of the similarities among the names). Not only are plot and characters very believably presented,  but the setting — a mining town in the Finnish interior — is exceptionally well-described. I upped her grade by one “+”, even though I became a little impatient with the  narrator (Kallio herself)’s introspections.

<>”Death Spiral” (2015). I enjoyed this, since we have often watched competitive ice dancing. A teenage dancing sensation is found dead killed with her own skates. Maria Kallio, very pregnant but determined to work to keep her job, has several suspects and is eventually successful in solving the case. Still A+. (Read previously, this note added Oct. 2020).

“Fatal Headwind” (original 1998, translation 2016). The most, for me, enjoyable Maria Kallio story to date. We get the usual-sized group of suspects, most of them typically with the same surname, but they are not too difficult to distinguish from each other (and there is a ist at the beginning!), and the narrative moves briskly along — incorporating not only the crime(s) and the motives and alibis, but other matters: ecological effects and (violent) protest, and some sailing to relieve the monotony on land. One drawback for me was the would-be emotional attraction by Maria K. to a suspect, which I found exaggerated for effect in one chapter. And now a word of warning: another Caveat lector! (Reader beware!). The title means, approximately, “on the windward side”, i.e., “where one is open to the wind” (with nothing “fatal” involved!) This idea forms the background to part of the story, but only metaphorically; however, I was expecting Maria K. to be shipbound during a violent head-on storm, or something similar — which never happens. (As written above for a book by Läckberg: The publishers may manage to sell more books with this deception, but they do not deserve to! On the other hand, the combination of ecoterrorism with the motives for murder and the involvement of an earlier death are all skilfully intertwined and keep the attention throughout. No change to grade, still A+. (This note: October 2020).

“Before I Go” (original 2000, translation 2018). The seventh Mario Kallio mystery. This is a change of pace: we do not have a sizeable number of suspects who are eliminated from suspicion in a Christie-like manner; we have one main suspect, with a likely motive, on whom the team of detectives are gradually pinning the murder, and then he disappears — only to turn up long dead on a landfill site. Maria K has therefore to find the second murderer and determine the motive… Which of course she does, having been taken off the case a few days previously. No change to my A+ grade, but a comment on the title. The original, Ennen lähtöä, does indeed (according my on-line translator) mean “Before departure”. This has nothing to do with the story, but a passing reference to a song with this name, popular in Finland, occurs once and seems to be the source for the book title. This works, presumably, for Finns, but not for English-speakers! (This note: March 2021)

MANKELL, Henning

         “The Pyramid” (2008). Five stories of varying length, from very short to short-ish. Mankell wrote them to answer the question: How did Kurt Wallander develop as a detective before “Faceless Killers” (1991), set in 1990? The first story is set in 1969, before KW even became a detective. Each one is a joy  to read, although KW solves some of the cases more by luck than judgement. (this note: Dec 2018)

         “Return of the Dancing Master” (2003). I am now catching up on some post-Wallander stories by Mankell. This almost  persuaded me to raise the grade to A, buthis style is too pedestrian, too repetetive and virtually humourless, some of the characters are not well-drawn, and this was unnecessarily long — over 400 pages, small print. The plot is however peerless!

         “Firewall” (2002). A coincidence: I was catching up on the news and read the article “The end is nigh for Davos Man” – which mentions the fact that 26 individuals in the world own as much as half the world population. Mankell’s book is in this context timelessly relevant: the conspiracy that Wallander & Co. find themselves combatting is directed against the world’s “fat cats”. I sympathized with the conspirators! Its relevance aside, this book is the best Mankell/Wallander that I have read: the flawless plot weaves together apparently unrelated incidents and becomes a tense thriller for its last chapters. It is very long, but never put-downable.  Mankell now A+.

      “Before the Frost” (2004). This is the only double-Wallander crime novel: Kurt is joined by his daughter Linda, after her training and just before she starts her career as a police officer. A repeated theme in the book is the fiery relationship between father and daughter, both of them very short-tempered with and often angry at each other; this would promise well for more novels of the same, but although Kurt appears alone in three more, Linda does not.  The plot is intricate and very violent, and the unfolding of really unpleasant incidents is parallelled by the development of the investigation: this is hampered by Kurt’s reluctance to listen to his daughter, whose acquaintance with some of the characters involved is crucial. I was a little annoyed that Mankell resorts to what I call “a Pauline”. (In each episode of the 1914 film serial Perils of Pauline, the heroine finds herself in a situation likely to end in her death, but is rescued at the last moment.) Heroines (or heroes) walking into traps, usually knowingly,  is a device that Mankell should not have resorted to. Linda’s character fits this event, so this is not unexpected, but it is the major reason I do not raise Mankell’s mark to A++! — For, in all other respects, this is an excellent crime novel.

MARKLUND, Liza

          “Without a Trace” (2015) was brilliant until the last 50 pages, when (a) the major crimes and the problem at home were wrapped up too fast and too neatly, and (b) several  strands were left dangling loosely. On it own, this book would have deserved an A-, but given the rest of her books, I’ll wait until I have read the next… (this note: 2016).

NESBØ, Jo                   

         After reading “Police” (2013) I wrote: I used to rate him very highly, but came to dislike all his characters, both the evil and the nominally “good” guys.. This matters… 

         Now, with “Thirst” (2017), I have to restore his “A” rating, but unwillingly!  The plotting and writing are brilliant,  but he is too blatantly explicit in describing the details of the tortures and  murders. This is unnecessary. Maybe I am too sensitive, but so, surely, are other readers. (this note: Jan-Jun 2017)

NESSER, Håkan.

A problem with Setting, see my criteria. After “The Mind’s Eye” I wrote: Very good, but he has a skewed sense of place: the topographical names vary all the way from Ostend to Gdan′sk. This matters a lot to me! Is it set in Belgium? Netherlands? Germany? Denmark? Poland? Having always enjoyed Scandicrime novels for their sense of place, I was at first too frustrated to read any more. In addition, I do not like being unable to pronounce the names of characters and places. For the Scandinavian settings, I recognize that I do not know the languages, and put up with it. Nesser’s personages and locations are set in place that I know with languages that I can pronounce, but this is frustrating when a name may have two or more pronunciations: the first word in the name Van Eck, as a simple example: is this to be pronounced /fan/ (as in German), /fon/ (as in Dutch), or perhaps /van/ as in Swedish? The novels reviewed here have been included because they are so good, in spite of their being doubly removed from the reader’s reality: (1) they are hidden behind the mask of fictionality, and (2) they are hidden by taking place in an unbelievable location. “Woman with Birthmark,” for instance, not only has characters with Spanish and Finnish names (they could be immigrants), but has place names that are Flemish/Dutch, German, vaguely Scandinavian, and Polish!
Note: only the first 8 of the 10 “Van Veeteredn” books are available in my library’s offerings: Pity!

        “Borkmann’s Point” (2006, original 1994) I have now given him a chance; the place stays vaguely Flemish throughout, and I was not distracted from an indeed very good detective novel. I was able to guess the unlikely ‘who dunnit’ by process of elimination, so I do not mark Nesser above A-. (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).

         “The Return” (2007, original 1995). Warning: this is hard work! The style is very oblique: I quite often did not know who was speaking and/or who was being referred to; and there are three different time-frames with frequent shifts. However, the plot is first-rate, and the guilty party is obvious but only in hindsight (as it should be). I am raising Nesser’s mark to A on the basis of the humour: I was often chuckling and looking forward to the next amusing description or phrase. As for the setting: I have now got accustomed to its vaguely being “low countries”, and the choice of names for places and persons is amusing for anyone who knows any of the languages in the lands between Ostend and Gdansk (this note: Apr 2019).

       “Mind’s Eye” (1993, transl. 2008) SECOND READING, completed in 2020. I confess: I had forgotten how enjoyable this novel was. It is a “typical Nesser” in its humour, but has more murders than most of his books: still, one murder is committed to cover up another, so it is not a “serial murder” mystery.

“Woman with Birthmark” (1996, transl. 2009). This is really excellent: I very much enjoyed, often laughed at, the humorous comments and I appreciated the philosophical musings. Although this was not a ‘whodunnit’ because we are introduced to the killer on the first page, the plot is interesting, the dogged detection by a large and believable group of detectives iss very credibly described, and towards the end it turns into a suspenseful thriller. SECOND READING, I was very much affected by the final pages, and on their merit and the undoubted consistency of Nesser’s books, raise his grade to A+. [This note: December 2020]

“Münster’s Case” (1998, translation 2012) also “The Unlucky Lottery.” Van Veeteren is hovering in the background; most of the work is by Münster and Moreno. I found the plot outstanding and fast-moving, with several unexpected turns of events. All the usual other elements – characters, humour — are still in evidence. The recent raise to A+ is justified. (This note: January 2021)

“The Inspector and Silence” (2010) Van Veeteren’s last case: a perplexing one because in spite of repeated interviews and interrogations, nobody divulges much — mostly because the many young teenage girls (two of whom have been strangled) feel obliged to keep shtum for fear of the leader of the “Christian” sect they belong to, or as they say because their faith demands it. In the interim this leader, already once imprisoned for suspected impropriety (!), disappears. The problem with this story is that nothing much happens for chapter after chapter (other than the murders and the disappearance). Van Veetern’s subordinates and four locals also do some interrogating. V.V. meanwhile eats interesting food and muses about philosopical riddles. After chapters of much the same kind of stuff, this gets — in spite of Nesser’s humour — monotonous! The criminal(s) are unmasked and V.V. retires. I tend towards a B-level grade for this one book but leave his overall grade unchanged. (September 2020)

“Hour of the Wolf” (2012) The first “VV” story to be set after the Chief Inspector’s retirement; but he figures large, because his (formerly ne’er-do-well) son is one of the victims of string of murders. Van Reenwijk is now in charge, and the team of detectives are faced with cases which offer virtually no leads. The narrative keeps switching between the detectives and the murderer, showing how the latter keeps them “in the dark” for many days. Like most of Nesser’s books, very slow but very amusing. (October 2020).

“The Weeping Girl” (2013) This has been translated into fluent “estuary English” (the colloquial English spoken in areas close to South-East London). All I can say is, “Blimey! What’s the translator a-doin’ of?” This is a very unusual crime novel. There is one crime twenty-odd years before the story takes place, and another at the end. The man accused of the original crime disappears for most of the book, as does his niece. The perpetrator meet a very peculiar death. The narrative features not Van Veeteren, now in retirement, but his replacement, Ewa Moreno, and a lot of the pages concern her amorous exploits. Yes, very unusual as a crime novel, but, as I now realize is normal for Nesser, is very very entertaining, not least for its gentle humour! A, definitely. (August 2020)

The Summer of Kim Novak (1998, translation 2015). With this exquisite short mystery Nesser leaps into my good books, for on the flyleaf he writes: “Around 1962 I concluded that Kim Novak was TPW — The Perfect Woman.” For my own part, my fascination with Kim Novak (who in my young imagination easily eclipsed Brigitte Bardot and Mylène Demongeot) dated from 1955, the year I turned 18, when I saw the film “Picnic”. For me, too, back then, she was TPW. —— That is all of course by the way. What of this book? Well, it is absolutely perfect, at least for the first 193 pp. (out of 217), in the way that it uses the vocabulary and diction of two 12-year-old boys, Erik and Edmund, having a “perfect summer” at a lake in the woods. Even in translation, and presumably in the original, it sounds just like the banter of couple of almost-teenagers. Their summer turns sour after Erik’s brother starts an affair with the young lady who had taught Erik the previous term and who was the embodiment of Kim Novak — and whose acknowledged boyfriend was a famous handball player; and who turns up dead on p.135. … The last 24 pages are not as good because they are narrated by the adult Erik and seem very ordinary, even though the murderer is unmasked at the very end. I did not miss the Van Veeteren books at all! (This note: April 2021)

TV Series: “Van Veeteren”, Episodes 1-3 (2005-06). A DVD collection with only 3 episodes: “Borkmann’s Point,” “Münster’s Case” and “Moreno and the Silence” = “The inspector and the Silence”. The three short films, of about 90 minutes each, are and are not recreations of the written novels. I found it entertaining, having read the stories, to see the faces of the detectives and the locations chosen for the crimes; but except for “Borkmann”, few aspects of the novels are copied. “Moreno and the Silence” has only two of the elements of the corresponding book (see above): the sect, and its leader. Otherwise the plot is completely changed, with a view to making its exciting, but I found the results cheap. “Münster” is almost unrecognizable, but the resulting mini-movie is very good. Many of Nesser’s amusing comments are (necessarily) missing from all three. Note: there are three others that I have not seen, all in Swedish as far as I can tell. If I were to grade the collection, it would rate a collective B+. (This note: January 2021)

NYKÄNEN, Harri                    

         Excellent location, characters & humour, but too much Mossad and international cloaks-and-daggers for me (this note: 2016).

OHLSSON, Kristina               

         “The Chosen”: (2015) Downgraded: still very good, but (a) confusing, (b) so very many introspections in italics that they lost their effect and became annoying (this note: 2016).   

“Hostage” (original 2012, this version 2014).  A slow start, with a clumsy exposition of the Swedish security apparatus and the four specialists involved. Their introspections obscure and do not essentially affect the outcome of the novel, which is about a bomb threat on an airliner bound from Stockholm to the USA. However, as it gains pace all the drawbacks I have mentioned can be ignored, and it is soon a really exciting thriller. KO allows the reader to anticipate some of the twists in the plot, but that makes others all the more surprising. There is a great deal of sociopolitical commentary, especially because (non-) co-operation with US security is much involved; the commentary strongly reminded me of the Sjöwall-Wahloo books. Grade unchanged.

           “Silenced” (original 2010, translation 2013). I really enjoyed this, from start to finish; but it has to be noted that is read it just after Brekke’s “Fifth Element”: in my comments on that book, I wrote: “Give me a straightforward narrative any day” — and that is what “Silenced” is. Still, it is not simply a chronologically-arranged narrative, but is a very well thought-out one. Each of the four members of the detective team (except the newcomer Joar) has their very interesting and intrusive backstory; two cases are investigated and (of course) they turn out to be linked; unnamed criminals are hovering in the background, interfering in the cases; and, most gripping of all, one woman is a victim of identity-theft in Bangkok — quite frighteningly described. Two sisters are involved, and it eventually becomes clear that one is evil and the other not. This is one of those books which one does not wish to finish, it is so good. I am raising KO’s grade to A++, making her one of few with this top-ranked accolade. (This note: December 2020).

“The Chosen” Second reading. This time, I have downgraded KO. I was, to put it bluntly, bored. Most of the first half of the book has nothing to do with the newly-buried body or the 30-years-ago-buried body, but for the most part just concerns the three main investigators and their private lives. After a while I could not care less about Fredrika and her ‘getting-on’ spouse Spencer. Also featured is a hospital patient who may or may not hold they key to the newly-buried problem.

ÖSTLUNDH, Håkan

“The Viper” (original 2008, translation 2012). This is a stunning example of caveat lector — reader beware! I have three reasons for this caveat.
(1) The cover features a windmill and a stretch of gentle grass hillside: suitable for a Håkan Nesser book, but hardly for this Håkan Östlundh one. However many windmills there are in Sweden, there is no windmill in this story. There is a lighthouse which features prominently at the end of the book: did the (I would call them brain-dead) editors think a windmill and a lighthouse are sufficiently similar?  
(2) The title: “The Viper” is not a translation of the original “Blot” which means “Sacrifice”.  An actual viper appears on a doorstep on p. 17 and (again, or a snake, at least) in an erotic dream on p. 30. If a metaphorical viper is meant, the author does not make this apparent. “The Sacrifice” would have been a much more appropriate title.
(3) The blurb on the front cover: ‘“A future classic of crime fiction.” — Stephen Booth’. This is tosh! The book is a competent crime novel, and is indeed very well written, but there are deficiencies too. The detectives do not ‘solve’ the murders for over 200 pages, and then they do so by chance. Most of the book concerns the two children of the murdered woman, their reactions and everyday activities, pushing the plot forwards slightly now and again. If this will one day be a “classic”, then so will many dozens of other books.  How much did “Minotaur Books” pay Mr. Booth for this most misleading blurb? I would gladly produce a more useful one for a small vfraction of the probable the cost! Booth should have paid Minotaur, in my opinion.
There are ten people with the (‘posh’) surname Traneus involved, some victims, others possible suspects: I had to draw my own family tree to work out who’s who (the fact that Anders Traneus is the cousin of Arvid Traneus is divulged far too late in the plot). We start very early on with two bodies and one missing person. It is clear that we spend so much time with the grown children of one of the victims that they must hold a vital clue as to what really happened: this could have been achieved in a less onerous manner, although to be fair: the explanation of the crimes and the discovery of the missing person is orchestrated very well.  As stated, the crucial breakthrough for the detectives comes by chance: namely, two kids, playing in an area frequented by pigs, come across a penis. This is far, far better than the hackneyed “man walking his dog finds a body” plot line, but does not come up until chapter 40, about 60% of the way through the book. One more criticism: we are introduced in the prologue, p. 3, to a person in intensive care in a hospital. We learn, in a piecemeal fashion, that it is one of the detectives, and eventually we learn which detective it is; and then on p. 351 (!!! there are 358 pp. in the book) how he came to have such a serious brain injury. If you the reader have read my review of Ahnhem’s Victim without a Face you will know how much I abhor “Dick Bartons” of this kind! Also as stated, I do not consider this a “future classic”, but it is undeniably competent. I award Östlundh an A- for this book, and this may be generous.

The Intruder” (original 2011, translation 2015). Stephen Booth is at it again! Not, luckily, on the cover but on the front inside of the jacket: “Another Scandinavian star has been born.” — No, not a star, but a member of the supporting cast — even though I have to state right away: this is better than “The Viper”. However, it tends to get boring and repetitive for some (but not all) of the story. Whereas (to translate this into music) “Viper” moves gently along for most of its length and then quickly rises to a crescendo, “Intruder” alternates between more or less monotone passages and sudden fortissimo ones. A negative note: this is definitely an FAP translation (see “Criteria”), which made me stop reading for a moment’s silence on, I estimate, about a third of the pages. A family returns to an isolated (but not unpopulated) island to find evidence of apparent nasty mischief in their house, and this is followed by what can only be threats and then their daughter being enticed away (if only briefly). Then there is a very sudden and shocking double murder, and the detective team (the same as for “Viper,” with the brain-injured team member back in almost perfect health) has much more to work with. And now the story becomes suitably, believably tense until the dénoument. This last does fall flat, it seemed to me that the author wanted to round things off in rather a hurry. I am leaving Östlundh’s grade at A-, although he ddoes show frm time to time that he can do better.

PERSSON GIOLITO, Malin

         “Quicksand” (2017). An appropriate name: I was sucked into the interminable reminiscences of a teenager, now on trial for (at least) abetting, (but probably) participating in the shooting of  four classmates and the class teacher. I emerged after one third of the 500 pages, almost suffocated by the minutiae of her life before and during the event and during her incarceration awaiting trial. It is, judging by the English of the translation, beautifully and evocatively written, but!! — a big but — details of the events leading up to the crime, of the motives, and of the actual shooting leak almost imperceptibly out of the narrative at very long intervals. The second 2/3 of the book would have been fascinating but I simply do not have the time for logorrhea of this kind. Therefore, B+ for a book that is probably worth an A — and was awarded the Petrona award, May 2018! (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).

RAGNAR JÓNASSON

         “Snowblind” (2015) I mark this as “A-“, very uncertainly. The plot is certainly intricate and clever — too clever? — and the setting claustrophobically vivid. The characterizations are good, too; but I did not like the actual style, which does indeed sound like an author’s first effort.  The progression from climax to dénouement is too swift; the explanations are too short and neat; there are some loose threads at the end and the far nastier perpetrator escapes unpunished. Maybe Ragnar’s second will allow me to raise his grade! (this note: Jan-Mar 2018)

  “Nightblind” (2015) I have raised his mark to A. At first I found the style too ponderous – why, e.g., spend 4 pages (chapter 7) describing the main character’s wife’s attitude to her marriage? The same message would be dealt with successfully by most writers with a few deft strokes. This is impasto painting where light watercolours would be better! Still, once this hurdle is overcome, the novel can only be described as very good. Its characterizations are perhaps only average but it really excels in its plot, the way in which everything falls into place in the end, and especially (a huge plus for me!) in its sense of place. I now know Siglufjördur better than most of the other locations that are described in the 50 “Scandicrime” novels I have read. I would like to have visited it – but not during its long winter! (this note: Nov 2018).      

“Blackout” (2015, translation 2016). A disappointment. The ponderous style is not improved; the plot is slow to develop and the backstory is rather obvious; and the resolution of the crime is too sudden and quick. Mark reduced!     

“The Darkness” (2015, translation 2018). The story is set in Reykjavik, and is apparently the first of a trilogy. Hulda Hermannsdóttir, a maligned but competent detective on the eve of her retirement, looks into the fates of two young immigrant Russian women. For what seems to be the first time she makes a string of errors which lead to shocking consequences. RJ’s plot moves briskly towards them… An improvement over previous novels; mark raised to A.   

<> “Rupture” (2016, original 2012). The cover tells us that this is ‘another Ari Thôr thriller’  and indeed part of it is set in Ari’s small far-northern town of Siglufjör∂ur, but most of it concerns a TV reporter. Ísrún, in Reykjavík. The two cases and their subplots are quite distinct and the insignificant parallel is mentioned just once. The Reykjavík case is, for me, more interesting, although the other, concerning a lonely, inaccessible farmhouse,  has all the ‘atmosphere’.  Neither plot is a thriller of any kind. All in all, uneven! (this note: January 2020).

“Whiteout” (2013, translation 2017). Set in Kálfshamarsvík, a cluster of three houses and a lighthouse on the north Icelandic coast, to the west of Akureyri. There are four deaths and four surviving characters in this story: very claustro-phobic. At the same time, our friend Ari Thór’s wife Kristín is about to have, and at the end does, give birth to her first child. The limited  number of suspects might have made it difficult to keep the reader guessing, except that any one of the first three deaths might have been an accident or suicide. I myself was in difficulty and guessing to the end; I was finally glad to find out who the perpetrator was, and what they had done. No change to RJ’s A. Note I: If you read this book, Google “Kálfshamarsvík” to see pictures of the extraordinary lighthouse (the book cover is NOT misleading!) and of the terrifying basalt cliffs (which should have been pictured as well!). A perfect location for fatal falls, accidental or deliberate! Note II: there is a map which is too small, and a page of pronunciation hints which is a little misleading. Pity! (This note: December 2020).

         “The Island” (2016, translation 2019). This is so very different from “Whiteout” that I had to go back and check. The last two featuring Hulda (Hermannsdottir, it turns out) and based in Rejkjavik (“The Darkness” and this one) could almost be by a different author from those set in the far Icelandic north. This one has events far from Reykjavik (the Westfjords and an island off the south coast) but the base is still the capital. The story moves smartly along but the locations are the characters are held together very cleverly. The original murder, ten years ago, and this latest death (?accident/suicide/ murder?) are finally linked and a perpetrator arrested. There is what I thought was, for the plot, an unnecessary hiatus while Hulda flies off to the USA on a personal quest, but it is very brief. There is none of the oppressive atmosphere of the Siglufjör∂ur/ Kálfshamarsvík locations of the ‘far north’ books, and this for me was all to the good. I enjoyed the book so much I have raised Ragnar’s grade to A+. (And a small point: there is a map, and it is large and easy to read!) (This note: January 2021)

         “The Mist” (2017, translation 2020).  This is set for the most part in a snowstorm in an isolated — and that is an understatement! — farmhouse inland in the East of Iceland. Characters at this location: the farmer Einar, his wife Erla, their daughter Anna. In Reykjavik: a student-age girl, Unnur; her parents; and the indomitable Hulda Hermannsdottir, her husband Jón and daughter Dimma.  By the inexorable end of the story, from the nine characters listed, only Hulda and two others are still alive. It is all extremely well-written, and (to say the least) extremely depressing. The events take place before those of “The Island” (see above), in which Hulda is pressing on, beaten but unbroken, with her life. Let us hope she continues, she elicits our sympathy! (This note: January 2021)

ROSLUND, Anders and Börge HELLSTRÖM
I confess: I should have read the books by these two authors long since! Now they have come to my attention, I have chosen some with reference to their synopses on the web-page https://www.fantasticfiction.com/. The team has published seven books. Some of these are not really mystery stories but are rather “James-Bond-like”, see, e.g., Three Hours. Others are extremely grim. These are not to my taste and if I read them it is only in part, i.e., I “skim” them. A sad note: BH died in 2017. The endnote by AR boasts that the team reinvigorated Swedish mystery-writing; the quality of their books that I have read makes this quite possible, but I wait for confirmation! (September 2020)

“Box 21” (2008, but read after the books reviewed below). See my comment above about reinvigorating other Swedish (and by extension other Scandinavian) authors. This book and Pen 33 date from 2005 and this one shows a style and an authorial approach that are not yet properly developed. The plot is certainly superb and the characters of Ewert Gren, Sven Sundkvist, the despairing doctor and the two enslaved and battered prostitutes are very well drawn. Note that, as contrasted with the explicit Egholm — see my note above — extremely unpleasant deeds are described sparingly, even tactfully. Also, differently from Three Dog Night, the motives  of love, hate and fear fade into the background and self-questioning and shame become prominent. I was disappointed by (1) the fate of the four perpetrators of these activities; one does meet his just desserts, the others not as much: one of them can expect a long prison sentence not because of what he is sentenced for, but for an action decades previously; the third and fourth are still enslaving young girls at the end. I was disappointed by (2) the loose ends left dangling: these third and fourth crooks (will they get put away?) and worst of all (3)  the éminence grise whose identity is revealed on the very last page. On the basis of Box 21 I am inclined to reduce the grade, but will wait for a fourth Roslund-Hellström book before assessment.

“Cell 8” (2011). Normally, I might have returned this to the library unread, because it is very long and set for about half of its length in the USA. However, having ignored these authors, I persevered; and I was richly rewarded. This is the compelling story of a citizen of Ohio who is convicted of murder, sentenced to death, and after many years on ‘Death Row’ dies and reappears alive as a crooner on a Finland-to-Sweden ferry. He is accused (correctly) of aggravated assault and then the Swedish police alert the American authorities…, There is an extremely complex and extremely well-structured plot; the characters are very believable, even the very unpleasant top detective Ewert Gren; and the discussions of Swedish and American attitudes to retribution and the death penalty are deep. Very strongly recommended! Grade of A+ much deserved. (September 2020)

“Three Hours” (2019). The third in a trilogy (? see below) with Ewert Gren (see above) and Hoffman, a crook-turned-hero whose exploits out-Bond the great James. These involved outwitting the Russian Mafia in Warsaw (“Three Seconds”), the drug lords in Colombia (“Three Hours”), and (this book) the traders in humans — people-traffickers — in Niger, Libya and Sweden. A fourth (“Three days”?) is planned according to AR’s endnotes. The exploits are almost superhuman and the outcome is predictably good. In this, the third book, there is one mystery: the identity of the person behind the shipment of 57 Africans, all of whom are found dead in a shipping container. I was able to guess this person’s identity, but his/her motives are complex, timely, and interesting. As in “Cell 8” the plotting, the characters, the setting are all absolutely outstanding. My “A+” remains. (September 2020)

SJÖWALL, Maj & Per WAHLOO           

These two, the first and for a long time the only good, Scandinavian crime novelists, wrote ten crime novels, 1968-76, featuring Martin Beck. Here are my comments on the last seven; I read the first three some time ago.         

√4 “Laughing Policeman” (1968). On my way through all the Beck books and enjoying them.
√5 “Fire Engine that Disappeared” (1970). Every (for me) new S & W is better than the last. I especially appreciate the sociopolitical comments and enjoy the frequent humour (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).
√6 “Murder at the Savoy” (1971). As good as the others so far, but so depressing. Arne Dahl, in his preface, writes that this book portrays “a social climate that was in many ways idiotic and inhumane.” All I can say is, ‘And how’! Dickens could not have been any bleaker than these writers and their description of the ‘hard times’ of one of the characters. The detection involved is straightforward, and much of the book made me laugh aloud, but it does indeed (Dahl again) leave a bitter aftertaste. (This note: Nov 2018).         
√7 “The abominable man” (1972). Foreword by Jens Lapidus. It is the victim who is abominable, a policeman committing outrageous and  arbitrary acts against members of the public, destroying lives and livelihoods to keep his own version of order. Gratuitous violence typifies the force as a whole, in fact. The authors describe this vicious climate in detail. The murder is indeed very nasty, but our sympathy is with the murderer, in spite of the bodies left behind and the difficulty in dealing with him. If it weren’t for the wry humour, this would have been even bleaker than “Savoy.”  (This note: Mar 2019.)       
√8 “The Locked Room” (1973). There are two mysteries in this book: (1) a ‘locked-room’ murder, and (2) a bank robbery with the shooting to death of a bystander. The book’s last words are: “What the devil happened, really? And how? Someone must know. Who?” Not the detectives, although Martin Beck appears to have solved mystery (1); not the lawyers or the judge, for one or two miscarriages of justice occur; and not, altogether, this reader, with respect to mystery (2).The accused ends up with a life sentence, which he appears to deserve, if not for the crime he is condemned. — With the exception of Beck, the detectives are arrogant and incompetent; there are lengthy negative sociopolitical commentaries; there are digressions from the plots. The two stories move smartly along, and more humorously than before.  (This note: Apr 2019). 
    √9 “Cop Killer” (1975).  Again, two mysteries, A ‘cop killer’ does put in a two-page appearance, but half of the book is about a young man who is wrongly believed to be the cop killer. The other plot is, mostly, a series of fruitless interviews seeking a rapist/ murderer. The politico-social criticisms in this book are very amusing and very harsh, being mostly directed against a hapless police force: only Martin Beck and his colleague Lennart Kollberg  are honest and efficient. They duly solve both crimes very neatly. (This note: Aug 2019).     
√10. “The Terrorists” (1976). There are indeed actual terrorists in this story, who are interestingly thwarted, and a young woman who acts like but is not a terrorist. This is the last of the books written by these two trailblazers, and as such is a bittersweet read. It is a shame that we can look forwards to no more! (This note: Nov 2019).

STAALESEN, Gunnar

         “We shall inherit” (2015) I agree with Sara’s review of and have now read  “Where Roses Never Die” (2015) which is so good that I have promoted the author to A+. In addition, the descriptions of the narrator’s feelings are often such that I laughed out loud. (this note: Jan-Jun 2017

         “Wolves in the Dark” (2017) rather repetitive (narrator drives, interviews, drives, interviews, etc., for the great majority of all 60 chapters) and very complicated, but ultimately very satisfying; still A+ (this note: Jan-Mar 2018).

         “Big Sister” (2018) I raised his “mark” to A++ on the strength of this really excellent novel, in spite of the Biker melodrama which, on its own, would have detracted. The rest of the novel is intricate, deep, and I would even say inspirational. (this note: Feb 2019, endorsed Apr 2020).

“Wolves at the Door” (2018, translation 2019). A very neat detective story: who tried to run him (and later his girl friend and her daughter) down? Were the two, later three “accidental deaths” really accidental? Varg Veum (he of the very amusing pithy one-liners) has to interview victims of child abuse to get at the several truths. Grade unchanged! (this note: October 2020).

SVENSSON, Anton
(The pseudonym of Stefan Thunberg and Anders Roslund; the latter also writes as part of the duo Roslund & Hellström. The nom-de-plume Anton Svensson was devised for only two books, reviewed here: these are fictionalized accounts of actual crimes by Thunberg’s father and three brothers. And BTW: I do not think that Stefan is a relative of Greta, not a close one, at least.) Seehttps://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/aug/08/i-ratted-out-my-bank-robber-brothers-stefan-thunberg
The two accounts are “The Father” and “The Sons”: The original titles are “Björndansen” and “En Bror Att Dö Fö” which mean, respectively, “Bear Dancing” (i.e., “Bear Baiting”) and “A Brother to Die For”. The English-language editors must have had the very odd idea that close translations would not sell. The result is two bland and uninformative titles: this is a real and quite deplorable disservice. “Bear Baiting”, though appropriate, is probably too opaque; but “A Brother to Die For” fits the plot perfectly and is easy to understand! (Also, as is usual, the covers reflect nothing that occurs in the stories: why do publishers do this?) .

“The Father (Made in Sweden, Part I)” (original 2014, translation 2016). As readers of this blog will know, I shun very long books and sometimes return them to the library unread. This one is nearly 600 pp. long but I read it anyway. It is in fact ‘easy reading’ and, though not ‘enjoyable’, is entertaining.  Featured are one man (with the very uncommon Serbian name Dunjac) and three of his sons — the fourth being co-author Stefan Thunberg, who kept informed of his brothers’ nefarious activities but, before he wrote this book, divulged them to nobody, the sense of familial solidarity being so great. (The book ends up as a kind of betrayal). The three brothers and especially the eldest, Leo, are moulded by and in the violent behaviour of their father, and channel this into becoming a famous bank-robbing gang which gets away with using the threat but never (with one exception, instigated by a non-family members of the gang) the use of extreme violence in their ten successes. I found, as a reader, that I needed to remind myself that this story is based on real facts: it reads like a piece of very imaginative fiction. — There is a great deal of detail about how they obtained the military weapons they used, and about their robberies, and I admit that I skipped some of this, for I found some details not really necessary. The four characters (father, three sons) and their interactions are extremely well depicted, and this heightens the enjoyment. The translation is in precise and authentic British English without being too idiomatic (cf. my comment for The Weeping Girl).
There is one of the usual drawbacks: the (new!) title is misleading, for the plot involves the three sons for (I estimate) over 90% of the time; but given the fact that the father’s malign influence hovers in the background throughout, and that he joined the group for what turns out to be the last, abortive robbery, this has to be forgiven. 
Overall, in spite of some criticisms (amount of detail, length, and so on) I have to award this an A+.

“The Sons” (Made in Sweden, Part II)” (original 2017, translation 2017). This sequel has ‘only’ 476 pages! Differently than “The Father”, this is based on real facts only in part: details from ‘the past’ fill out the real story as recounted in “The Father”; descriptions of ‘the present’ are fictional. Again, all of this has to be borne in mind while you read. This book must be read after “The Father;” it will make very little sense if you are missing that portion of the story. In fact, these two novels are so connected that they should really be read back-to-back, as one long story., for readers with stamina. If you have read “The Father”, “The Sons” is an absolute must-read.
As the books are so closely related, “The Sons” is stylistically consistent with its predecessor. All of the same emotional connection and the beautiful balance between emotion and heist thriller are present in this novel. They flow from one to the other seamlessly. The tone is however much more broken than the first novel. Instead of a unit of brothers, cemented together due to their experiences at the hands of an absent father, this novel sees their father back in their lives, and a splintering of the choices by, and lives of, the brothers. They act more as individuals rather than as the well-coordinated group of the first novel: they are, after all, now adults. This actually provides more opportunity to explore the thoughts and backgrounds of the individual brothers (and their father) than the first novel. In this respect it is more interesting; I did not miss the decreased amount of movie-slick robberies. It is tense for other reasons, and a necessary conclusion to the stories begun in the first novel. The last 100 pages unexpectedly turn into a fast-paced thriller. In the final two dozen this became, for me, unclear: whereas every detail and every action hitherto has been described minutely, now they are alluded to rather than spelled out, and I found the ending disappointing. But for this feature, I would have raised the grade to A++!


THEORIN, Johan                   

“Echoes from the Dead” (2008) re-appeared on the local library shelves. This was his first book. This was so outstanding that I gave raised Theorin’s mark to A++! Plot, characters, pace, style (in translation, at least) can not be bettered,, and the sense of “place” is close to breathtaking: now, if suddenly transported to Öland, I would recognize it in a second. (this note: May 2019)         

“The Darkest Room” (2008) also reappeared. I recall reading this (about ten years ago?) but the details were all as if new.  All my comments about “Echoes” may be echoed, and reinforced, for this book too; I only add that being transported to Öland in a blizzard would not be my choice! (this note: Aug 2019)

TUOMAINEN, Antti

  “The Mine” (2016):  As the cover blurb says, this is “beautifully written”, even in translation. The plot, about selfish greed and gross environmental degradation, is nothing new for inhabitants of my part of Canada. The narrator, a newspaper reporter, takes some risks but also relies on luck, and this aspect of the plot is predictable. The series of murders and their perpetrator are not much of a mystery; nor is the person behind them all. A good story, but ultimately, for me, not very surprising, and unsatisfying. Graded B+; his next will probably be better (this note: Apr-Jun 2018).         

“The Man who Died” (2017): Hugely entertaining and at times very very funny. The narrator learns that he has been fatally poisoned and suspects his wife and her lover. Not a subject for humour but I laughed frequently. The ending is a satisfying surprise, and along the way we learn a great deal about the mushroom-exporting business. Grade upped to A (this note: June 2019).
     
“The Healer” (2010, English translation 2013). Enthralling and at times frightening. I started reading this the day of the Global Climate Strike and no book could have been more relevant: places disappearing into the ocean, anarchy in most countries, wars without number, plagues and pandemics, 500-plus climate refugees… In relatively untouched but still chaotic Finland there is unending rain; most of Helsinki is uninhabitable. The narrator’s wife, a journalist, has suddenly disappeared: she has been writing a piece about “The Healer”, a main who is, like an avenging angel, murdering some of the worst Finnish authors of climate change (an understandable aim, if extreme!). Every detail of “life” in Helsinki is believable, as are the main characters. And this is indeed a ‘thriller’: Will the narrator unmask “the Healer”? Will he find his wife? …  I raised AT’s mark to A+ on the strength of (a) this one book and (b) his obvious versatility. But for the enigmatic ending, this might have been A++! 

      “Palm Beach Finland” (2017, English translation 2018). More evidence of AT’s versatility. This time a darkly amusing crime story with eight characters circling around each other. Extremely enjoyable!

   “Little Siberia” (2018, English translation 2019). Another dark and very amusing crime story, this time more of a thriller but with a great deal of philosophical musings on the part of the main character, a pastor not averse to violence after his wife is kidnapped. Winner of the Petrona Award for 2020; worth A++!

TURSTEN, Helene        

            Very pedestrian (this note: 2016).

YRSA SIGUR∂ARDOTTIR       

        

Note: two series of crime novels.

The Thóra Gudmundsdóttir series: six novels, 2007-2014. Not assessed yet.

The Freyja and Huldar series: five novels to date:

  1. “The Legacy “(2017) the first in a new series (“The Children’s House”) is really good but still not “++” because of the abrupt ending, which has not enough explanation & the main characters are left high & dry. (this note: Jan-Mar 2018).
  2. “The Reckoning” (2018) the second is again brilliant up until the ending, which this time has too much in the way of explanations.
  3. “The Absolution” (2019)”The Absolution” (2016, English version 2019) the third in the series. Here I have to admit partiality: it deals with extreme cases of bullying, something that I knew only too well during seven years at boarding school. (The Wikpedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicides_that_have_been_attributed_to_bullying, interestingly, begins with an 1877 instance at my own boarding school!) My own experiences, which extended to tentative thoughts of suicide, were nothing compared to those of three young people in Yrsa’s novel: for added to the physical abuse and taunting that I experienced is something that has developed since my time, namely anonymous on-line ridicule, threats and torment — something that I might well not have endured. The ringleaders of the children ganging up on these victims are murdered on Snapchat, and Yrsa’s book concerns the detection of the perpetrator(s?). As with the two previous books, I found it brilliant until the final explanations, which become, simply, too complicated. But for this shortcoming of the ending, see the previous novels also, Yrsa would be  A++!
  4. “Gallows Rock” (2020) the fourth in the same series. I was tempted to downgrade Yrsa from A+ to A for the shortcoming noted for “Absolution”: in this case the final unravelling is so intricate that it should have been allotted very much more than 40-odd pages (out of almost 400). My mind was reeling by the time I finished. I had to admire Yrsa’s extraordinary cleverness but was totally disenchanted by the mass of convoluted plot twists. Otherwise, I would again have been tempted to raise the grade. Until the 350th page I was enjoying the story immensely, in spite of the very unpleasant plot: four young men who produce home-made sex movies with often unwilling women and escalate the idea to posting them on the ‘Dark Web’. One toddler is caught up in the story (not the videos, D.g.), hence Freya’s involvement; and one man is hanged in the first chapter, hence the title. There is a strong leavening of humour also. Downgrade? Upgrade? Neither!

NOT ASSESSED BECAUSE OF POOR TRANSLATION:

ERIKSSON, Kjell         

         I very much liked his “Burundi” (2006) but “Demon of Dakar” is unreadable: the English is stilted, archaic, jarring; many sentences have to be read twice. He introduces too many characters at once and, given the impenetrable style,  I had to go back often to check who was who. I gave up after 80 pages out of 350. A shame, it may be a good story! (this note: 2016).

         (October 2017): I started “The Hand that Trembles” (2011).  First of all: “Demon of Dakar” was in fact a translation, by Ebba Segeberberg — as is “Trembles”. Mr. Eriksson is not to blame for the very, very poor English. On this occasion, I gave up after 58 pages. As a part-time professional translator, I feel justified in condemning this effort. No reader should have to read so very many sentences twice to work out their meaning; no reader should have to wonder what some sentences mean after 3 or 4 readings. Mr. Eriksson comes with impressive Swedish credentials and is, presumably, very badly served by Ms. Segerberg. English is clearly not her native language and she (as I do, when translating into any language other than my own) should have had a native speaker edit it for her. We would all be much the richer. See also my comments on the Hammers’ book. (this note: Jan-Jun 2017).

HAMMER, Lotte & Søren 

         “The Hanging” (2013) Another excellent plot and characters but the style and language were vague and inferential: I was often left  quite confused. Also, the translation, by Abba Segerberg (see Wikipedia about her “quirks”!) made the style even more annoying. Pity! (this note: 2016).

SCHEPP, Emelie (see below)

NOT ASSESSED BECAUSE OF SMALL PRINT:

DAHL, Alex (“Boy At the Door”, 2018) My note to the publishers was:

This is brilliant book — as I told myself, as I struggled through the first 60 pages. I enjoyed every page, every paragraph, every sentence, every minute, so why was it a struggle? Because of the tiny print. I had to decide to return it to the local library, because I was getting a headache trying to read it. / Is there a hardback edition with larger print? Not in the library, they said. Not at Amazon, the internet told me. So, I shall never enjoy this book the way its author intended that her readers should… /Why do you wish to restrict your readership in this way? There must be many, many other readers who do not wish to have to use a magnifying glass to read it, and so never will. / I would have gladly given this a very strong recommendation on my “Scandicrime” blog, but in all honesty I had to get further than 60 pages before doing so. Pity. Note: readable editions found and reviewed above!

EXCLUDED:

AXL SUND, Erik. 

         “Crow Girl” (2016). I started this but found it, simply, offensively gruesome. Not for me!

DE LA MOTTE, Anders          

 “Game” (2013) A brilliant idea, but it became far too confusing, and, for me: too James-Bondish towards the end. No more! (this note: 2016).

 MELANDER, Jakob     

“The Scream of the Butterfly” (2015): I have now read this again (2019). Some, for me, unpleasant medical details and child abuse. In addition, the time-lines are difficult to follow (there are chronological headings, but they are misleading) and it is not always clear which abused Albanian child is which! The second half is excellent, so the A+ rating is deserved nonetheless.

       “The House that Jack Built” (original ‘Øjesten’, 2013; translation, 2014; original means (roughly) “Little darling” and JM must have approved of the substitution.) JM is now on my list of “Never Again” Scandicrime novelists. If “Butterfly” is unpleasant, this one is disgustingly so, if (like me) any reader dislikes disfigurement involving eyes, carried out while victims are alive. This is a great pity because the plot is excellent and the characterization, both of the detectives and the others, is  first-rate: another A+ for readers who are not squeamish.

NATT OCH DAG, Niklas.   
   
“The Wolf and the Watchman” (original: ‘1719’, 2017. Translation: 2019). This is so very well written that I stopped reading it with some regret. Also, the description of 18thC. Stockholm is fascinating, especially to one who has appreciated the descriptions of 18thC, London in Andrew Taylor’s “Marwood and Lovett” series.  However, it relates an absolutely repulsive story (with equally repellent sub-stories) in excruciatingly abhorrent detail; and when I thought it could not get any worse, it did. I have read many unpleasant novels in the course of my “Scandicrime” reading (and the daily news) but this was the worst. I would have liked to know how the two protagonists solved the crime, but this I must go without! Not recommended. (If you do not know them read the Taylor books instead!)

NYKÄNEN, Harri

“Nights of Awe” (2004)This was my second look at this author — the first was in 2016. I started this book and found the opening chapters very readable and extremely amusing. But I trust the blurb on the back cover, which refers to “international terrorism, … the Finnish Security Police and Mossad”.  So, no thanks. The promise of what I read must remain unfulfilled. (This note: November 2020)

PERSSON, Lief   

         “Between Summer’s Longing” (2010) The  Swedish detectives & secret service agents are nearly all incompetent &/or lazy &/or crooked. This may be satisfying to Swedish readers, given the very serious political subject; but I found it no more than amusing satire, and  interminable. I gave up after 350 pp. out of 550, and this was  the first part of three. No more for me! (this note: before 2016)

RAMQVIST, Karolina

         “The White City” (2017). Apparently very highly thought of in Sweden: but a psychological study of a coke-dealer’s wife is not enough of a ‘mystery’ for me.

SCHEPP, Emelie now excluded from further consideration. “Marked for being ignored”, I might even say!

         “Marked for Life” (2016). My reactions to this novel are very mixed: putting aside my extreme annoyance that Ms. Schepp did not get a native speaker of English to read and edit this very obviously weak translation, I shall concentrate on the story. Plot: outstanding and intricate. Characters: with one exception, bland: the main person, whose character is clearly delineated, is very unlikeable, but we do find out why, and sympathize. Story: starts very slowly and suddenly turns into a torrential thriller — with, be warned, a succession of tired clichés to describe the frequent one-on-one encounters and nail-biting events. Theme: raw and unpleasant — and these two adjectives are really enormous understatements!  For the outstanding plot, graded “B-“.