Sunday, December 17, 2017

Some Mini Scandi Reviews II

Here are brief reviews of some of the Scandi books I've read this year. I'm including Vargas here as Iceland plays a significant role in her latest Adamsberg.

Karin Fossum – hellfire tr. Kari Dickson

Another bleak outing from Karin Fossum. It starts with the murder of a mother and child and the narrative subsequently alternates between events of several months leading up to the present day, and the present day investigation by series regular, Sejer. Fossum really knows how to break a reader's heart.

Leif G W Persson – The Dying Detective tr. Neil Smith

Shortlisted for the Petrona Award 2017 and winner of the CWA International Dagger 2017, there's not much to add to that. I loved this book. Borrowing from a tradition (I think) begun with Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, our ailing detective Lars Martin Johansson is laid up and asked to investigate a cold case from his sick bed - incidentally a case messed up by one Evert Backstrom. He must find the killer of a little girl. As the statue of limitations has passed what can they do if they do find the murderer? One of the many questions pondered by Johansson.

Yrsa Sigurdardottir – Why Did You Lie? tr. Victoria Cribb

Also shortlisted for the Petrona Award 2017, Why Did You Lie? is a multi-person narrative – how do their stories overlap and who is behind the sinister events affecting each person? This is the sort of book that when you get to the conclusion you then have to go back to the beginning of the book to see how it's all been cleverly woven together. Some of the narratives are more compelling than others so overall it doesn’t quite live up to the heights of the Petrona Award winning The Silence of the Sea, which I loved.

Fred Vargas – A Climate of Fear tr. Sian Reynolds

This is the latest in the Commissaire Adamsberg series to reach us in English, and it was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger 2017. This one is mostly set in Paris and surroundings with a significant thread playing out in Iceland which necessitates a visit by Adamsberg and some of his colleagues. Vargas weaves her usual fantastical tale this time revolving around Robespierre and the French Revolution/Reign of Terror. I found this topic interesting up to a point but the pace of the book sags in the middle after what seems like countless historical re-enactments and only springs back to life in the subsequent Icelandic section. Overall this was a bit of a disappointment compared to her usual 5-star outings. Nonetheless she's always worth a read but it's perhaps not the best one to start with.

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