Two Scandi Noir DNFs

>> Thursday, June 21, 2018

What with the move to Finland, I find myself attracted to books set in the Nordic countries, and there's plenty of Scandi noir to choose from (and yes, I do know that Finland is not considered to be in Scandinavia -close enough, though). Here's two which were not successful tries.

TITLE: I'm Traveling Alone
AUTHOR: Samuel Bjørk

The first I chose was this one, the first book in a series following two Norwegian detectives called Holger Munch and Mia Krüger. Kruger is the veteran in the pair, a man who's been sort of exiled recently after a case went to hell. The reason the case went to hell was because of the actions of his then partner, the brilliant but troubled Mia Krüger. Mia has since left the force, and is living in an isolated island. She's planning to kill herself soon and follow her twin sister, whose death led to her screwing up that last case.

And then a little girl is found dead hanging from a tree in the woods, with a sign reading "I'm travelling alone" round her neck. Holger is brought back and asked to take the case, and his first step is to bring back Mia. There's something about the case he can't put his finger on, and he's confident that Mia's brilliant mind will find the clue. And she does. And it's clear that these girl is just the first of many.

It's an intriguing (if gruesome) case, and I was interested in the detectives. Their investigation shows promise as well. But oh, the writing. The writing just killed this book dead. The book felt so painstaking and slow that I was bored out of my mind. I expect the translation didn't help, but I'd say the responsibility for this being such a dull slog is mostly on the writer. I think I particularly struggled with the constant sections taking attention away from the investigation, which bogged things down even more. I gave it several days, but it was one of those where reading another chapter feels like a hardship, and where there's zero compulsion to pick the book up again once you've put it down. I don't have time for this.


TITLE: Unwanted
AUTHOR: Kristina Ohlsson

For the second book, we move eastwards into Sweden. The detectives here are Inspector Alex Recht and Fredrika Bergman. Alex is the experienced investigator, while Fredrika is newer. She's facing mistrust from her team, since she didn't come up through the ranks and was a university-educated civilian till she was "parachuted in", as some in the team would see it.

The case concerns another little girl in peril. This one has been abducted from a crowded train. Her mother had briefly stepped off the train when it was delayed at one of the stations, leaving her sleeping child behind as she didn't want to wake her up. She was then detained by a woman with a dog who asked her for help, and before she noticed, the train had departed. She did the obvious thing and called the train company, which alerted the crew. They were supposed to keep an eye on the little girl, but due to some confusion, by the time the train got into Stockholm the little girl had disappeared.

The main problem with this one was that, other than Fredrika, the police felt pretty incompetent, even Alex. They don't think critically and cotton onto things that feel quite obvious, and they seem weirdly relaxed about the case. They take it very easy, just do a couple of pointless things, and don't even consider doing the obvious things (like an identikit of the fucking woman with the dog that detained the mother while the train left!).

The writing was also not great. It felt simplistic and too on-the-nose. Part of that might be the translation, but part of it is the characterisation. We’re told so-and-so is like this and that, and then they say something that is like the stereotype of what that kind of person would say (like, we're told the sexist colleague is sexist, and then he immediately thinks that clearly Fredrika has no man to give her a proper seeing-to).

MY GRADE: This one was frustrating, rather than boring, but that also means a DNF.


meljean brook 24 June 2018 at 19:58  

I keep wanting to go back to Kristina Ohlsson because the descriptions always sound interesting but the execution has never been there for me (and I keep telling myself that maybe it's the translation...but by this point, I think not). Alas.

Rosario 26 June 2018 at 06:28  

I must say, that's been the case for me for pretty much every Scandi Noir book I've tried to read. Are there any that you've tried where you thought the execution was as good as the premise?

Post a Comment

Blog template by

Back to TOP