Saturday, 8 September 2012

Silenced byKristina Ohlsson

I have read this impressive book in one sitting. A small group of Swedish detectives (which includes amongst their team a non-police trained investigative analyst) are faced with the apparent suicide of a controversial priest and his wife. The controversy surrounds his position on, and activity with, the asylum-seeker issue. It appears one of his two daughters has died of a drug overdose in the same week as her parents are found dead.
At the same time, the team have to establish if a hit-and-run is something more; if it is another crime for them to investigate. Over time, connections are found between the case of the family deaths and the car accident.
Interspersed with the action in Sweden, the reader is swept along with a woman in Bangkok who is desperately struggling to maintain her identity as all avenues for help close off - her email accounts are inaccessible, her contact phone numbers for her family are no longer valid, her passport and wallet are stolen. She is systematically being made invisible by unknown forces.
It will transpire that the woman in Bangkok is the other daughter of the Swedish priest. And the culmination of all three events - the death of her family, the car accident victim and the hijacking of the her identity - will lead the detectives through a circuitous route to the early childhood of the priest's two daughters and to a detective in their own community.
There is not one central character - all are equally well-drawn and developed. This makes for a nice departure from many books in the broader crime fiction genre. The plot is intriguing and the issues raised by the story are both timely and thought-provoking.
I can honestly say this particular Nordic crime offering is the most engaging book I have read this year. I look forward to many more from Kristina Ohlsson.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

She's Never Coming Back Review

Hans Koppel's She's Never Coming Back is not a police procedural but, rather, a thriller. Ylva disappears one day without trace and her husband is, naturally, frantic. He is also, naturally, the first suspect the police think of as the days go by without any lead into Ylva's disappearance. There is a young daughter, Sanna, and Mike (the husband) slowly settles into a routine of looking after her and trying to regain some semblance of a normal life. What none of them can know is that Ylva is watching them the whole time. She is fact being held hostage in a cellar which is rigged up so that she can see clearly her husband and daughter as they live each day. It is the ultimate cruelty, to be so close and yet completely incapable of communicating with her loved ones. As the story unfolds, it becomes a saga of the worst of human nature and the ways in which we take on a new 'normal' when circumstances demand it. Koppel is  a pseudonym for a Swedish based author; whoever he or she is, they have penned an intriguing and disturbing novel in She's Never Coming Back.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Johan Theorin's The Quarry

I highly recommend Johan Theorin's books - Echoes from the Dead, The Dark Room and, now, The Quarry. All set on the island of Oland, the place of Theorin's ancestors on his mother's side, the landscape and local culture are two main characters in his novels. The Quarry is a novel rich in folklore references and I found myself strangely accepting of the talk of elves and trolls; the deeply held beliefs of this island people and their connection to their environment act as an unusual channel through which the very real tale of sordid family histories and the associated murders plays out.
Per Morner has decided to settle on Oland having been left a cottage by his elderly relative, a Quarry man living on the edge of the alvar (an extensive limestone plain). His young daughter is gravely ill but he is distracted from all else by the death of three people, one of them his father (Jerry), whom he comes to realise are the victims of murder. His father's past is the catalyst for these events,  Jerry having been at the forefront of the Swedish porn industry some decades earlier.
Morner befriends a neighbour, Vendela, who has returned to the island of her birth. Her family history is sad and inextricably linked with the mythology that many islanders weave into their daily lives. Her explanation of events, from a young girl, as the actions of elves and trolls comes to dictate her every move and decision.
A favourite character is retired sea captain Gerlof Davidsson who checks himself out of a nursing home and takes up residence once again in his cottage that sits alongside Per Morner's home. He spends his days reading his late wife's diaries from the 1950s and, through these, begins to separate reality from mythology, and ultimately helps Per to both survive and find some solace.
A thoroughly engrossing and original story, Johan Theorin is an author of particular note among the community of contemporary Nordic crime writers.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Jo Nesbo's Headunters and pending Melbourne visit

Just finished reading Jo Nesbo's Headhunters. I initially missed 'Harry Hole' as this is a stand-alone novel and found the first fifty pages or so less than riveting. But then.....Nesbo brings his trademark 'dark' imagination to this story of Roger Brown. At the pinnacle of his profession, once Roger has decided on the best candidate for a job, no company will refuse his recommendation. His life is very good, not least because of his healthy ego and side line of art theft. When the tables are turned on Roger and all his plans are turned on their head, he is forced into bizarre and extreme actions. Oslo is the backdrop as Roger's life unravels and takes unexpected twists. By the end of this novel, I was once again interested in how Nesbo's mind comes up with such original and graphic situations in which to place his characters. And, I was thoroughly engaged by the peppering of some very dark humour through the text. I am excited to add that we have the great honour of hosting an evening with Jo Nesbo in Melbourne, Thursday 1st March 2012. Go to and click on "Events" for full details.