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Impressed as I am by Henning Mankell, I am always willing to give authors whose work sounds similar. Helene Tursten is also Swedish, but that isn't where the similarity lies. Henning Mankell's Wallander series often portrays Wallander and his team working together to solve the crime; describing their team meetings and the relationships between the different members of the team. This book is the same. The star of the book is a female detective, but she works very closely with the other members of her team; which in my studies of the police, is a far more realistic method of working. Mavericks like Rebus just don't exist in the real world. Or if they do, they don't last long. All this boded well for this book. And indeed, I did enjoy it; unfortunately I can't recommend it as an equal of Mankell's work.
Wealthy entrepreneur Richard von Knecht seemingly leaps from the balcony of his penthouse to his death. Initially Irene Huss and her team believe that it is suicide; this quickly proves to not be the case - Richard von Knecht was murdered. When they begin to prod into his background, his family join forces and let very little information slip. A couple of days later, the building in which von Knecht had an office is bombed. Once experts have looked at the evidence, it is clear that the bomb was triggered by someone opening the door to the office; in fact, the body is still there. The body is later discovered to be that of the von Knecht's cleaning lady. But why was she at the office when she was hired to clean the flat only? Is von Knecht's immediate family as innocent as they seem to be from their alibis? And what is the connection with the long-time perp who has opened a tobacco shop just across from the office.
As the team painstakingly piece all the bits of the puzzle together, we are also treated to an insight into their family lives, particularly that of Irene, who has a daughter who is showing Nazi tendencies.
This is a particularly detailed portrayal of the way that police work together during a case. It is interesting because for once, the emphasis is on a woman and we are treated to a no holds barred description of the crap that female police officers have to face from their male colleagues. Irene, being fairly senior, manages to avoid the worst of it, but a younger female colleague, brilliant at her job and blessed with good looks, bears the brunt of male chauvinism. Despite these problems, the bonding between the team is very well portrayed and I enjoyed reading it.
Irene Huss is a good example of a working mother who faces danger most days of her life, yet still manages to go home and feed and water her dog and children. For once, this one is happily married; she has an understanding husband who has worked part-time since the birth of her children, now in their teens. I liked Irene because she doesn't meet any of the stereotypes of the usual female police officer; she isn't particularly masculine, hard-faced, ambitious or weak, nor does she use her sex to progress in her job. She is a very ordinary police officer who occasionally has to put up with sexism from colleagues who think that women should stay at home. Where is the British version? I'm sure she exists somewhere. Perhaps that's an idea for a book...
I also enjoyed, as always, the insight into the society of another country. For example, Irene's concern about her daughter who has shaved her head and is playing in a band that sing anti-ethnic minority songs is fascinating. And I think the fact that she has a husband who works part-time so that he can look after the family while Irene works is telling; you don't hear of many men who do that in this country - I think I've only ever known one and he had to stay at home because of an illness. I also liked reading about how the Swedish police work; for example, they are far more widely armed than our police.
There are two negatives which unfortunately make me unable to give more than three stars for this book. One is that although I found reading about Swedish police procedures interesting, a work of fiction is probably not the best place for it. At times, it reads more like a text book than fiction, which did take away some enjoyment from the story - in the end, I spent nearly two weeks reading this book, which is unusually long for me. And I do have a deep interest in policing; studying it is what I do for a job. I cannot imagine that anyone who just wants a good read is going to be overly impressed.
The other problem is the translation. It is one of the worst examples of translation into English that I have ever read and I read an awful lot of translations. The translator, Steven T Murray, just doesn't seem to be able to translate the Swedish into anything but slightly cheesy English, which doesn't read well. There is nothing wrong with the grammar; it is simply the choice of words. It is very hard to give an example, because it is an overall impression that is hard to show in just a few words, but believe me, it isn't good. I still managed to read the book, but I did find the translation very irritating.
On the whole, I can only recommend this to die-hard fans of European crime fiction or to those that are interesting in criminology and policing. I did enjoy it, but I can just see too many faults in it to be able to recommend it any more highly than that. It is also quite long for a book that has its faults; there are over 300 pages of closely written text. Three stars.
The book is available from play.com for £6.99. Published by Soho Press Inc, it has 320 pages. ISBN: 9781569473702. But I would recommend borrowing it from a library first.
One night Detective Inspector Irene Huss is called to the scene of an apparent suicide. The dead man landed on the pavement in fornt of his luxurious aprtment. A wealthy financier, he was connected through an old-boys' network to the first families of Sweden. But the society suicide turns out to have been a carefully plotted murder. As more murders ensue, Huss tangles with motorcycle gang members, skinheads, immigrants and neo-Nazis, a cross-section of Sweden's Disaffected, until ultimately she discovers which of the suspects actually killed the Swedish millionaire. And why.