Hand’s up one of the best Scandinavian crime novels I read in a long time. And I’m not saying this because of the cover. Okay, maybe, because I love puns. I am an avid reader of Henning Mankell and his Wallander novels, of Jo Nesbø‘s Harry Hole and of course I’ve read Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow / Fräulein Stillas Gespür für Schnee, where the title sounds like an Astrid-Lindgren-Fairytale but is quite gruesome. I’ve read the Stieg-Larsson-Trilogy and seen the movies (contrary to popular opinion, my least favourite). All these books share a very distinct style which makes the Scandinavian fictional criminal world so appealing. It is their humble understatement. The opposite of American boldness you might wanna say. So many thrillers focus too much on their hero(in)es’ private turmoil and try to make up for it by vivid descriptions of especially gruesome crimes. Less is more, as they say, and Arne Dahl’s debut is no exception. There are hints that give you what you need to make the good guys seem human beyond their professional capacities. There are horrific crime scenes. But they are just presented as plain facts and don’t require the neon signs and arrows screaming in a Trump-like voice LOOK, BLOODY MURDER, SLAUGHTERFEAST, THE HORROR. You might say, Scandi thrillers are as cold as the countries they are written in. Definitely not a cosy read. And yet I feel so much more connected to the Wallander, Hjelms, and Holes in this world than to [insert American thriller protagonist of your choice]. I equally love Andrea Camilleri‘s Sicilian crime novel series so it’s not that I’m solely attracted to coldness and gloominess in climate and style. I simply enjoy when an author doesn’t overdo it in getting his message across or creating a mood. The good old “showing not telling’. When I read any of the previously mentioned, I instantly travel to Sweden, Sicily, Denmark, you name it. Hjelm, the lead investigator of Bad Blood, as well as his colleagues who are equally important and contributing to the plot and case, becomes more alive through imagination than on paper. There are attributes each reader will agree on but it leaves enough room of interpretation that no two Hjelms will be the same. The perspective switches between the parties involved. The writing is transparent, occasionally unexpectedly funny and humorous and the pacing is neither too rushed nor too much dragged out. Personally, I’m not a big fan of too much politics in crime novels, politics in itself is criminal enough that I don’t need it in fiction, too. But despite some clear politically motivated plot lines, it did not lose me along the line. A seemingly unspectactular but nonetheless captivating and enjoyable read and a definite recommendation.
Disclaimer: I read it (well, all of these, really) in German translation, hence no favourite quotes today. And I’m in a hurry, so can’t look them up either, as I normally would. Sorry.