When a very rich man plummets off his penthouse balcony,
police quickly figure out that this was no suicide. But the two characters who stand to
gain the most from his death, his wife and son, are both down on the sidewalk when he
crashes to the ground. Then who killed him?|
Like Prime Suspect,
this is a police procedural. Also like that series, Huss is a mature, experienced police
officer, surrounded by co-workers of various degrees of experience and likability. Yet
though much of the book is told from Irene Huss's perspective, I'm finding it hard to
say whether or not I even like her. She handles herself well on the job, she's happily
married and the couple has two teenage girls, plus she's a judo champ. But I don't
really "get" her. And that's despite the domestic crisis she's got brewing too. I
respect her, but she's not a lot of fun. I blame the job.
Part of the
reason for the lack of connection to the central character has to arise from the use of
the omniscient third-person perspective of the story. Many writers have done this
successfully. Elmore Leonard comes to mind, for one. But to succeed, it really helps if
there's lots of action and only a few, easily recognized characters. In this realistic
procedural, there's just the opposite. The quick switches of perspective between
subsidiary characters are distracting and effectively slow down what are already slow
scenes: meetings, for example.
Much of the dialogue in the police station
paints a complicated picture of a clash of different and difficult personalities. Some
are sexist, some reasonable, some inscrutable. At least two come off as mere caricatures.
As an outsider looking in, I got a far more complex view of some of the social conflicts
that must be simmering in the country. It's interesting to read a mystery set in a
foreign country with its popular references to crimes committed in Sweden, to the metric
system, and to Swedish locations. Sometimes the writing comes across as stiff, and I
can't help but wonder if that is due to translation challenges. Together, these details
effectively derail the normal pace of a suspense novel. Page-turner is not an adjective
that works here.
Still, the mystery is effective enough, even with the
short list of suspects. I sure got it wrong. Plus, Ms. Tursten's focus on the gathering
of evidence, the personalities in the police department, and the city and country itself
will keep you reading. Hope she tries again, speeds up the pace, and spends more time
writing about Huss.