In my plan to widen the nationalities of authors of crime fiction that I have read, I came across this author through a recommendation of my local library. Ive read and come to be a big fan of many Scandinavian authors, including Henning Mankell, Karin Alvtegen and Karin Fossum, but I think this is my first foray into the world of Norwegian crime fiction. Im happy to say that it wasnt a disappointment; it certainly wasnt the best book that I have ever read, but it was highly readable and I will certainly look out for other books by the same author.
Margaret Moss, an ex-actress turned Private Investigator, is approached by the sister of a former friend. Rakel Winkelmann, a famous actress, has disappeared and Rosa, her sister, is concerned that something serious has happened to her, but doesnt want to involve the police. Rosa knows very little, other than Rakel went on a train journey supposedly to meet a lover with whom she shared steamy phone calls.
Margarets first point of contact is with Rakel and Rosas cousin, with whom Rakel has met on a frequent basis. However, before she gets to speak to the cousin, she is hit over the head, dumped by the side of the road and finally wakes up in hospital. Undaunted, once recovered, she returns to the scene of the crime, where she eventually meets both the cousin and a bunch of neo-Nazis that act as her protectors. Then her investigation leads her elsewhere, followed by the neo-Nazis. Fortunately, she meets a long-distance lorry driver, who takes a fancy to her and is prepared to help her find out what happened to Rakel.
I was intrigued by Margaret Moss right from the first page, simply because her name did not sound very Norwegian, although apparently she is. She reminded me a little of Janet Evanovichs Stephanie Plum, probably because of her ability to fall into trouble at the drop of a hat, yet get up, brush herself off and throw herself into the next escapade. Her role was not quite so comic, but there were definitely elements of humour there, particularly in her relationships with men. Margaret is an older PI, divorced with a teenage daughter, and I found her very refreshing. She is well aware of her faults and is thoroughly humble; something with which I found easy to identify.
Her partner in crime, Roland Rud, the gym body type, is certainly very similar to Stephanie Plums Ranger. Again, he adds some comedy to the book, with his ability to turn up at just the right moment, even though he should theoretically be miles away. I warmed to him very quickly; despite being a body building lorry driver, he clearly cares for Margaret and they complement each other very well.
The humour didnt stretch to many of the other characters, which I didnt think was a bad thing. If I want to read comic crime fiction, no-one can beat Janet Evanovich, and frankly, I dont think it is even worth trying. Apart from Margarets daughter and aunt, the others were certainly characters to be taken seriously, even if they werent always completely realistic.
This was a thoroughly entertaining book. The plot was pretty good, I loved the characters and there was enough of a combination of humour and action to keep me completely satisfied. There were flaws in the plot; as often happens with crime fiction, parts of it were so coincidental to be laughable, but this is fiction after all.
The only criticism I had of the book was the translation. Generally, it was fine, but the translator, Louis A Muinzer, has obviously had very little to do with teenage girls. Many of the things that Margarets daughter said were clearly supposed to be reflective of the speech of a teenager, but just sounded utterly ridiculous.
I also enjoyed the commentary on Norways society and geography. I know very little about Norway, but enjoyed reading about Norwegian habits and the different places, particularly the islands and mountains. To be honest, this has been the case with all Scandinavian authors that I have read; Ive not yet read a book by a Scandinavian author that I havent liked and I wonder if this is because there way of thinking and therefore writing is similar to ours? I certainly feel that there is something very comfortable and familiar about Scandinavian fiction and I hope that more work by Kjersti Scheen will be translated soon.
The book is available from amazon.com for £9.09, although cheaper versions can be bought from the used and new section. Published by Arcadia, there are 240 pages. ISBN: 1900850591
Former actress Margaret Moss is not your usual private investigator. Fond of her vodka, divorced and living in Oslo, she supports herself and her punk daughter with routine assignments such as tailing faithless husbands and wives. The tempo picks up when her friend Rakel Winkelmann, the renowned actress, disappears and Rakel's sister engages Moss to look for her without involving the police. She has very little to go on, but a visit to Rakel's cousin brings her into contact with a group of neo-Nazis. Other clues lead to a mountain resort and Rakel's telephone lover. There Moss meets up with truck driver Roland Rud, her modern-day knight in shining armour. Piece by piece she uncovers an intrigue with roots in the theatre as well as the outside world, and becomes a pawn in a fatal game.