Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten

Reading a new mystery writer is in some ways an act of faith. Will the author deliver the goods, that is, will the crime be plausible and will the solution be comprehensible and follow logically from the setup? It’s always a risk that it won’t, and then you, as the reader, feel like you’ve wasted your time.

Detective Inspector Huss did not let me down. This book is tightly plotted and dense with both action and characterizations. Sometimes mysteries sacrifice one for the other, if you know what I mean. Either the action is interesting and the characters are cardboard cut-outs (think Anne Perry), or the characters are multi-layered and the crime and solution are flat (think late-model P. D. James). But Tursten did both jobs equally well, and I appreciate it. She has a knack for keeping everything clear. Just as I’d get to the point where I’d think “wait, WHO had the keys?” the next sentence would answer my question.

This is a standard police procedural of the Scandinavian variety. The weather is cold and wet, and Swedish society is on the decline (in this case we’ve got Hell’s Angels and skinheads to thank). As in all the best Swedish mysteries, our detective has trouble on the home front (her teenage daughter’s flirtation with aforementioned skinhead boy). It’s a good mix.

Two small complaints: With 371 pages of tiny type, this book is looooong and it took me almost two weeks to read. At this length I start to forget the beginning of the book by the time I get toward the end. And as is sometimes the case in books that are translated into English, the dialogue can sound a little stilted. At those times I just pretend they are all speaking English with Swedish accents and then it sounds better.

(Book 32, 2008)


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