Archive for the ‘Scandinavia’ Category

G FileI found deciding on one book to recommend to dear Maxine a difficult task, but after several weeks prevarication I have selected The G File by Hakan Nesser translated from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson. The G File is a very long book weighing in at 601 pages in my hardback version, but that wouldn’t have put off Maxine, she was a lady who read Trollope for relaxation; Anthony [1815-1882] not Joanna [1943-].

Hakan Nesser is an author who creates memorable characters and manages to include in his dark plots about violent acts a smattering of wit and humour. I feel that if one likes an author it improves your enjoyment of his or her books. Maxine and I were lucky enough to meet and chat with the charming Hakan at CrimeFest 2009 in Bristol, so I am fairly certain that she would have devoured The G File with the same enthusiasm as I did. P1010568_2

The G File is the tenth and last book in the Van Veeteren  series, one of the few detective series I have read in the correct order. The story begins back in 1987 when private detective Maarten Verlangen, a drunken ex-policeman struggling to survive financially is hired by a beautiful American woman, Barbara Hennan, to follow her husband and report on his activities. She gives him no idea of her reasons, but Verlangen knows her husband Jaan G. Hennan from his time in the police.

Trustor had wanted a sort of detective who could investigate irregularities using somewhat unorthodox methods- and what could possibly be more appropriate in the circumstances than a police officer who had been sacked-or rather, ‘had chosen to leave the force rather than be hanged in a public place. A gentlemen’s agreement.

 The pathetic failure Verlangen is contrasted from the start with the successful Jaan G Hennan, who seems to have it all. 

And ten times more desirable. No, not ten times. Ten thousand times. Why on earth would anybody want to be unfaithful if they had a woman like Barbara? Incomprehensible.

A dozen years previously when Verlangen had been a functioning policeman he had been one of the team who had put Jaan G Hennan in prison for two years  six months for drug dealing. 

Verlangen spends his time drinking and watching Jaan G. Hennan and when instructed by Barbara not to let him out of his sight one evening he follows him to the Columbine restaurant, and they both have a meal. Jaan G. Hennan joins a shocked Verlangen at his table, introduces himself and they drink together, Verlangen getting very drunk. And as Henman drops him off at his hotel he thinks….

On the whole Hennan had behaved reasonably , and the reason his wife wanted him to be kept under observation was more enveloped in mystery than ever.

When Jaan G. Hennan returns home he discovers that his wife Barbara has fallen from the high diving board into their swimming pool which happens to be empty. Murder, manslaughter, accident? Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, who also knows Jaan G Hennan from their schooldays is convinced that G was behind his wife’s death, but G has Verlangen and others as a cast iron alibi.

G is a man with a very dark past, he was the school bully and his casual brutality lead to the suicide of another pupil. A few years later G had treated a girl friend of Van Veeteren very badly. Van Veeteren had persistent feelings of guilt for not standing up to G at school.

When further investigations of the Hennan’s finances reveal a large life insurance policy taken out on Barbara Hennan, Van Veeteren is distraught at the inevitable outcome the result of a Northern European liberal justice system.

: the accursed G had been able to sit back and relax, and wait for the inevitable outcome- a not guilty verdict and one point two million guilders.

The narrative jumps forward 15 years to 2002 [the book dates from 2003 English readers have had a long wait for this series to reach us] when Van Veeteren is retired from the police, running Krantze’s Antiquarian bookshop and settled into a less stressful new life.

A young woman comes to see Van Veeteren, sent by his former colleague Munster, she is Maarten Verlangen’s daughter. She tells Van Veeteren that her father continued to drink excessively brooding  about G and the death of Barbara Hennan. Now the private detective has disappeared leaving an A4 sheet of lined paper from a spiral bound pad on his kitchen table.

Written on it were  “14.42” and “G. Bloody Hell”.

The former Chief Inspector Van Veeteren begins a search for Verlangen.

They had eaten turbot, if he remembered rightly, and drunk a bottle of Sauternes…..That was before the antiquarian bookshop. Before Ulrike. Before Erich’s death.

It wasn’t even a decade ago, he thought. But nevertheless my life has changed fundamentally. I’d never have believed it at that time.

Bausen cleared his throat, and Van Veeteren came back down to earth.

The G File is a well constructed detailed police procedural. There are few plot pyrotechnics, it does not need them, and while veteran crime aficionados might be able to guess the solution to the killing of Barbara Hennan the writing [and translation by Laurie Thompson] are of such a high quality that 600 pages soon whiz past. The G File is all about compelling characters, thinking about life’s mysteries, the creation of a dark brooding atmosphere, and the question how does a liberal justice system deal with really bad people.

The G File is a worthy finale of this series, and I am sure Maxine would have agreed with me that Van Veeteren deserves a place alongside Morse, Maigret, and Rebus in the panoply of great police detectives.

There was no point in speculating on that as well, of course, and he soon grew tired of trying to find alternative ways through the swamp that was life. His own path and turned out the way it did, and if he thought about it at all nowadays, it was with gratitude. Despite everything.    

51MLwvIJgBL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_Red Sparrow won the 2014 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel, and this modern spy novel is an exciting read and worthy prize winner. I don’t think it quite compares to the  best work of John Le Carre, Charles McCarry or Len Deighton, but it is a very good debut novel. 

I mentioned Epigraphs when posting about Colin Dexter’s The Secret of Annexe 3, well Red Sparrow is all about Experience, Espionage and Epicure. 

Experience: author Jason Matthews has 33 years experience as an officer in the CIA’s Operations Directorate, now the National Clandestine Service.

Espionage: Red Sparrow is packed full of spy tradecraft, as CIA operative Nathaniel ‘Nate’ Nash is targeted by the beautiful Dominika Egorova, a trainee of the Sparrow School of seduction. Dominika  is the niece of Vanya Egorov, Deputy Director of the Russian Federation’s Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki, the Foreign Intelligence Service. Nate is running a CIA mole MARBLE who is embedded deep inside the SVR, and while Dominika is attempting to recruit Nate, Nate is also trying to recruit her because of her relationship with Egorov.

Like most spy stories there are lots of complexities, and love affairs, betrayals but the characters are dealt with in a mature fashion, and the writing is of a quality that makes the 500 plus pages go smoothly. Matthews makes you care about what happens to these people. In Red Sparrow there is more thinking, and eating than shooting.

Epicure [a person who appreciates fine food and drink]: One feature I loved about the book is that every chapter ends with a recipe that refers to a meal eaten by the characters during the preceding action. These vary from simple Beet Soup to Caviar Torte to Shrimp Yiouvetsi as the action moves from Moscow to Helsinki, Washington, Rome, Athens and a climax at the Narva River. 

A spy thriller with believable characters and tense situations, blended with a tempting cookbook; an original concept, and a very good read. 

The Germans would have found him shuldhaft, culpable, and given him three years. The Americans would have pegged the poor sap a victim of sexpionage and sentenced him to eight years. In Russia the predatel, the traitor, would have been liquidated. French investigators handed down a stern finding of negligent. Delon was transferred home quickly-out of reach-consigened to duties without access to classified documents for eighteen months. 

A beautiful woman, quoi faire? What could you do?      

51eK2UHfulL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_We have been away for a week touring the beautiful houses and countryside of Kent and East Sussex in wonderful summer weather [possibly some 09-22-~1 (2)photos later] so that I have only just finished the Arctic set Forty Days Without Shadow by Olivier Truc. 

Olivier Truc was born in France but has worked as a journalist based in Stockholm since 1994. He has produced television documentaries including one about the work of the Norwegian Reindeer Police in Lapland. Forty Days, his debut novel draws on that documentary and blends in his journalistic interest concerning social issues such as the treatment of minorities.

The story begins with a short prologue set in Central Lapland in the year 1693, showing the persecution of the Sami by Christian pastors. The reader is taken forward to the present day in January when the polar night will end and the sun will return. At Kautokeino in Norway we are introduced to the main protagonists who are two members of the Reindeer Police. Klemet Nango, a veteran Sami officer, who at one time was working in Stockholm on the Olaf Palme investigation; and the young blonde stunningly beautiful Nina Nansen, a new recruit. They have to investigate the theft of a sacred Sami drum from a local museum, apparently one of only a limited number to survive the drum burning carried out by Christian pastors in a campaign against Sami religion and culture. As they investigate the theft and question reindeer breeders in the harsh Arctic environment Nina moves into unknown territory.

How could people live like this here in Norway, in her own country? The scene reminded her of a TV documentary she had seen once, about a Roma encampment in Romania.

When Mattis one the reindeer breeders is murdered the investigation becomes far more complex. With a UN conference being held shortly in Kautokeino the mismatched pair of police officers must look into a 1939 expedition that included anthropologists from Sweden’s State Institute for Racial Biology, hunt down the Sami drum, and search for Andre Racagnal, a villainous French geologist with a liking for adolescent girls. Racagnal is plotting with local figures to exploit the mineral wealth of the region. When Nina travels to Paris to interview Henri Mons, who donated the Sami drum to the museum and was on the 1939, she learns some shocking facts as she studies photos taken by the Swedish anthropologists.

It did not take Nina long to realise that they were clearly intended to illustrate the racial superiority of the Scandinavians, and the inferiority of not only the Sami, but also the Tartars, Jews, Finns, Balts and Russians.

Forty Days is an excellent read, rather dark and perhaps a little longwinded at times as Klemet and Nina travel hundreds of kilometres back and forth across the Arctic wastelands on their snowmobiles, but it would certainly be a worthy winner of the CWA International Dagger.

The characters are interesting, while the information about Sami culture and the problems that affect their society reminded me of Tony Hillerman’s wonderful books about the Navajo. And I took one of the messages of the book to be that indigenous peoples in many many countries are exploited, and their way of life and their culture threatened in some way by incomers. 

‘The Swedes recruited the Sami by force,’ Nils Ante went on, ‘to work in the mines. And they used reindeer to transport the ores to the rivers. There’s your story. Any Sami who refused was beaten and imprisoned.

Behold the foundations of the wealth of your splendid Nordic kingdoms.   

[the photo shows the nearest we have been to the Arctic…having left the train somewhere north of Helsinki into the freezing wilderness]

51WrzjbXCpL._SL500_AA300_There are some intelligent thoughts from Bernadette about the 2014 Petrona shortlist over at Reactions to Reading.persson

You can also read my own rambling opinions here and here.

The judges chose as the winner Leif G.W. Persson’s Linda, As In The Linda Murder, the first of series featuring the obnoxious and unforgettable Evert Backstrom as the main character.  You can read my review of this excellent book at Euro Crime.

 

 

22b874cThe translator was Neil Smith who also won the inaugural  Petrona translating Liza Marklund’s Last Will. 51-XXpEMoPL._SL500_AA300_

We are fortunate today that there are so many outstanding translators around, and we can enjoy the best of foreign crime fiction. 

Update: Read Professor Persson’s message of thanks at Euro Crime.

41sDxT2PRGL._AA160_perssonFree Falling As If In A Dream subtitled The Story Of A Crime is the third book of a trilogy. The previous books are Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End, and Another Time, Another Life.

I would recommend setting out on the marathon task of reading the lengthy books in order. Although this one can be read as a standalone it won’t be as satisfying because the reader won’t appreciate the way in which the clever jigsaw of a plot all fits neatly together over the three books. Author Leif GW Persson has been an adviser to the Swedish Ministry of Justice and a Professor at Sweden’s National Police Board, he is the country’s foremost expert on crime.

 

517CY6O6qWLHis crime fiction novels have been winning awards for three decades. In 1982 he won Best Swedish crime fiction novel with The Pillar of Society, in 51l72rqLc6L._AA160_2003 Another Time, Another Life won and in 2010 and 2011 The Dying Detective won Best Swedish novel and the Nordic Glass Key.

His dark humour and biting satire exposes the Swedish state and police force to some close scrutiny and they don’t come out of it very well. His writing style may take some getting used to but his books become addictive. There is a lot of detail, a lot of detail, and sometimes the plot drags as any 500 plus page will in places, but this is compensated by the brilliant characters. Of course his plots are complex and convoluted with lots of minor interesting characters, but characters are in my opinion what makes us read crime fiction, and Free Falling has them in abundance.

“Olof Palme,” said the chief of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Lars Martin Johansson. “Are you familiar with that name, ladies and gentleman.”……………………….

“Olof Palme,” Johansson repeated, his voice now sounding more urgent. “Does that ring any bells?” 

Free Falling As If In A Dream is set during the summer of 2007 and is the story of a secret investigation set up by Lars Martin Johansson into the murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme on Friday 28 February 1986.

Johansson, the detective known as the man who can see round corners, is determined to deal with the unsolved crime which has remained a blot on the record of Sweden and the police force. After all this time is the investigation dead as Anna Holt says like Monty Python’s parrot or is it just a little tired.

Johansson collects around him an elite team of three; Police Superintendent Anna Holt, Detective Chief Inspector Jan Lewin and Detective Chief Inspector Lisa Mattei. The narrative is the story of their lives, their investigations and the backgrounds of suspects and others involved in some way. The book is full of wonderful set piece meetings as Johansson and his team deal with the investigative tracks previously covered by the shoddy investigation years before. A lone crazed assassin, the Kurds and elements of the police had all been suggested as likely perpetrators. 

Evert Backstrom, the horrible misogynist homophobe, now rightly banished to police “lost and found” begins a lone investigation drooling at the thought of reward money he can possibly share with his informant. Backstrom plays a medium size role in the plot and even takes second level when it comes to the level of revulsion as sadistic SePo [secret police] officer Claes Waltin’s appalling life and suspicious death are dissected by the investigators.

But despite the presence of male characters who treat women badly, luckily the more major roles are played by Anna Holt and Lisa Mattei, who both have that interesting blend of brains and beauty and show a competence that shames their male colleagues. It seems at times that they do the work while the men eat, drink, and talk. 

There is one brilliant passage when Johansson goes for a nine course meal with the “special adviser”. 

The special adviser lived in a palatial villa in the Uppland suburb of Djursholm, where the creme de la creme in the vicinity of the royal capital had the highest fat content…………….

“That’s what characrerizes us real Social Democrats. That we have both our hearts and our wallets to the left.”

The special adviser, Sweden’s own Cardinal Richelieu, the prime minister’s top security adviser, the extended arm of power or perhaps simply power?

The two men definitely a couple of crime fiction’s great characters indulge themselves in the meal which begins with finger foods and champagne:

Mostly beluga caviar, duck liver , and quail eggs, and why fritter away your short life on nonessentials?

The subtle mixture of serious social comment, political double dealing, and dark satirical humour makes this an excellent read, and an example of the very best in Swedish crime fiction.

I don’t buy many books in hardback but Leif G.W. Persson is one author for whom I make an exception.

“Guys,” said Mattei, shrugging her shoulders. “There’s only one thing you need them for.”

What has happened to little Lisa? thought Holt. Is she becoming a grown woman?

” But not Johan, exactly, ” said Holt.

“No, not him,” said Mattei. “He’s actually good for several things. You can talk with him, and he’s really good at cleaning and cooking too.”      

From the website Typographical Era [see below] I was pleased to learn that translator Don Bartlett has been nominated along with author Karl Ove Knausgaard for the 2014 Best Translated Book Award. Don translates Jo Nesbo and K.O.Dahl among others; so he has brought to mono-linguistic English readers  many exciting books over the past few years. I was very pleased to see part of my interview with Don was used to publicise the award. The photo shows Don with the late Maxine Clarke, a great champion of Scandinavian crime fiction and an admirer of Don’s work. 

“A novel, short story, or other piece of fiction might be great in its original form, but let’s face it, without the loving attention of a skilled translator it could end up destroyed when it arrives in its English version.  The Best Translated Book Award isn’t just about the authors, it’s about the translators who take their work and make it accessible to an even greater audience as well.  To drive that point home, the award’s$10,000 cash prize is split equally between the winning author and the translator of his or her book.

P1010564My Struggle: Book Two / A Man in Love
By Karl Ove Knausgaard
Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett

Don Bartlett lives in Norfolk and works as a freelance translator of Scandinavian literature. He has translated, or co-translated, a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian novels by such writers as Per Petterson, Lars Saabye Christensen, Roy Jacobsen, Ingvar Ambjørnsen, Jo Nesbo and Ida Jessen. (Official Bio, taken from My Struggle: Book Two / A Man in Love)

Bartlett on translating from the Norwegian: …I read the book in Norwegian first, get an idea of what strengths there are, what I will have to make sure I bring out, what knotty problems there might be, then make a first draft, which is usually poor because it keeps too close to the source language. Then I start making it sound more English and slowly begin to crack the problems. I go through three or four drafts and there are more adjustments as the translation goes through the editing stage. No such thing as perfection, just gradual improvement. (from Crime Scraps)”    

51BvycWWroL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_51Y4W4o-IIL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_51WrzjbXCpL._SL500_AA300_41Tp7vFqe0L._SL500_LiaDHSomeone   These are the Official Petrona Award shortlist nominees and only one of these books, Linda, As In The Linda Murder by Leif G.W.Persson, appeared in my own opinionated shortlist. I have read four of the six books and here are links to my reviews. 

SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir tr. Philip Roughton (Hodder & Stoughton)
LIGHT IN A DARK HOUSE by Jan Costin Wagner tr. Anthea Bell (Harvill Secker)
My own shortlist was based on my personal opinion of what I felt Maxine [to whom this award is dedicated] would have chosen; a Don Bartlett translation and an Annika Bengtzon novel by Liza Marklund.
The Weeping Girl by Hakan Nesser is definitely a worthy contender for the award, but I chose the next book in the series, The Strangler’s Honeymoon, simply because it featured more of Van Veeteren, and concentrated a fraction more on society’s problems. The first Scandinavian crime fiction I read way back in the 1970s was the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo which is why I prefer a little humour with my murders; even if it is the dark satire of Leif G.W.Persson. There is very little humour in Closed for Winter or Strange Shores and that is why I did not enjoy them very much, annoying in the case of the very depressing and predictable Strange Shores because Arnaldur Indridason is one of my favourites. 
Will I read the remaining two books before the winner is announced?
Someone to Watch Over Me concerns a young man with Down’s syndrome accused of arson and murder. Author Yrsa Sigurdardottir is a charming lady, but I would probably find she had inadvertently put something in the book that clashes with my own knowledge about people with Down’s syndrome, therefore I will give it a miss. 
If I have the time I hope to give the Jan Costin Wagner novel Light In A Dark House a try despite the fact that my TBR mountain never seems to get any smaller. I look forward to the judges decision on the Petrona- my pick the Hakan Nesser or Leif G.W.Persson?  

512S7Oo65LL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_Asa Larsson’s The Second Deadly Sin, which is set in Kiruna way up in the Arctic Circle, was chosen as Best Swedish Crime Novel in 2012. 

The story begins when a hunting party bring in an expert to kill a wounded bear that has attacked and eaten a dog. When the bear is killed the stomach contents show that it has also eaten a human. 

District Prosecutor Rebecka Martinsson is having a quiet Sunday morning when her old friend Sivving, asks her and police Dog handler Krister Eriksson to accompany him out Lehtiniemi in order to check on Sol-Britt Uusitalo who hasn’t turned up for work. When they arrive they find Sol-Britt murdered in her bed, and her 7 year old grandson Marcus missing. Sol-Britt, a recovered alcoholic, had pulled herself together in order to look after Marcus, whose father had been rundown by a car three years previously, and whose mother had run off to Stockholm with her new boyfriend, who would not take Marcus. The traumatised Marcus is found and stays with Eriksson pretending to be a “wild dog” along with the real dogs. Asa Larsson captures the atmosphere of Sweden’s far north where there is a close relationship between man and nature and animals.

Police Inspector Anna-Maria Mella leads the investigating team with colleagues, Tommy Rantakyo, Fred Olson and Sven-Erik Stalnacke. In the Swedish system they are supervised by a prosecutor who is a lawyer. But Rebecka who had been assigned the case is removed by her boss, Bjornfot, after pressure from District Prosecutor Carl Von Post. Rebecka knows the locals, Rebecka had a breakdown in the past. The pompous Von Post takes over the case despite being extremely unpopular with the police. 

When they discover that Sol-Britt’s grandmother, young schoolteacher Elina Petersson, was also murdered the reader is taken back in a series of flashbacks to events in 1914/1915 and the story of Kiruna as a frontier mining town. The two strands of the story come together in a dramatic conclusion with a linked theme.

She looked at Sivving. She knew he had stared real poverty in the face. “We could easily have ended up in a children’s home,” he sometimes used to say.

Not everything was better in the good old days, she thought.

I really enjoyed this book especially the contrast between the modern women Rebecka and Anna-Maria,  and the situation of Elina back in the early twentieth century. Sometimes a back story holds up the narrative but in The Second Sin, Elina’s tragic tale of an educated woman with a modern ideas is compelling reading. Elina reads  and reads books including Selma Lagerlof, the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize, and Ellen Key, whose theories that the 20th century should be the century of the child and that motherhood should be supported by the government not by husbands is probably one of the main reasons for Sweden’s advanced position in the world today. But the vulnerability of all women to powerful ruthless men is a theme in crime fiction that never changes.

The Second Deadly Sin is a book full of great characters, the police dog handler Eriksson, disfigured in a fire as a child; Anna-Maria Mella, struggling with a career and three children; the objectionable prosecutor Von Post; and Rebecka, who could have an easier life as her lover Mans is a partner in a trendy Stockholm  law firm, but chooses to live in Kiruna. The Second Deadly Sin is a good read in a series that continues to deservedly win awards, and restores my faith that there are still outstanding Scandinavian crime fiction books being translated. 

Bloody woman, he thought, examining himself in the mirror. Handsome top dog? Old man? He would go to Riche anyway, and have a glass or two. Just sit there, observing beautiful women. Much better than gaping at “Mad Men” on the telly , all alone in his flat.

51diL7EFSdL._51FzH1ftowL._SL500_AA300_51OKxEMZRZL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_pi764d5364b057b5b7@large51WrzjbXCpL._SL500_AA300_

Karen of Euro Crime has met with the three knowledgeable judges: Barry Forshaw, Kat Hall and Sarah Ward to determine the shortlist for the 2014 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year.

Karen also asked which books readers would have on the shortlist, and which would be our winner. I haven’t read as much Scandinavian crime fiction as in previous years, but I am always willing to give my opinion. I think there are five outstanding eligible books that should be on that shortlist, and frankly I could not pick a winner as you could make a case for any of them as worthy recipients of the award. 

Lifetime: Liza Marklund trans Neil Smith [In my opinion you really can’t have a Petrona shortlist without an Annika Bengtzon book because Maxine Clarke, for whom the award is dedicated, liked that series so much]

The Strangler’s Honeymoon: Hakan Nesser trans Laurie Thompson

Police: Jo Nesbo trans Don Bartlett [Maxine’s favourite translator]

Blessed Are Those Who Thirst: Anne Holt trans Anne Bruce

Linda, As In The Linda Murder: Leif G.W. Persson trans Neil Smith

I am looking forward to discovering the real Petrona shortlist next month with the winner announced at Crime Fest-Bristol in May.  

51OADLTxBaL._I requested an ARC of The Fire Dance by Helene Tursten because I had enjoyed the first book in the series, Detective Inspector Huss. The Fire Dance is number six in this series set in Goteborg, Sweden’s second largest city.

I was a little surprised to see that a blurb from NPR’s Fresh Air on the back cover stating that this ‘mystery holds its own alongside the best feminine hard-boiled novels currently being written by Englishwomen Val McDermid and Liza Cody….’.

Is this the first time that Val McDermid from Kirkcaldy, Fife [a lifelong Raith Rovers supporter along with Ian Rankin and ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown] ever been called an Englishwoman? 

Fifteen years before the main events in The Fire Dance Irene Huss was asked to question a child Sophie Malmborg, whose stepfather had been burned to death in a fire. The theory was that Irene, a mother with twin daughters, would relate better to the young girl, but Sophie would not talk to anyone and the case was shelved and the fire explained as the stepfather falling asleep with a cigarette.

Now fifteen years later Sophie, aged 26, has been found dead, burned by fire after having disappeared for three weeks. Irene still happily married to chef Krister with teenage twins , Jenny and Katerina is assigned the case. There are several sub plots involving a gang war involving Hell’s Angels, who are mostly from Latin America, Irene’s worries about her daughters, and rather long accounts of the relationships and activities of Sophie’s dysfunctional family. 

Sophie is a dancer and has choreographed a ballet called The Fire Dance which has moves from the Brazilian dance and combat system capoeira. Does this hold the solution to the present murder and the case in the past? 

The Fire Dance was a fairly good police procedural with a lot of detail about Irene’s family life, but sadly this book was a disappointment to me because the plot was frankly a bit thin. My attention frequently wavered onto the Winter Olympics, and the terrible weather. Perhaps I have just read too much crime fiction with too many dysfunctional Swedish families. This one had little tension, and seemingly several characters were inserted  just to pad out the predictable narrative. I am sure that several books 2-5 in the Irene Huss series are better reads than The Fire Dance, but when a book contains the sentence:

“What’s a suppository?” asked the Superintendent. 

I think there is either something wrong with the translation, or the Goteborg Murder Squad live a very sheltered life.