The Streets of Babylon, by Carina Burman
The Streets of Babylon is a historical crime novel. The setting is London in 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition. Euthanasia Bondeson makes her debut on the crime novel scene. She is self-centred, tactless, provocative and irresistible woman, who smokes cigars. Together with a Welsh police inspector, the successful Swedish authoress and amateur sleuth goes in search of her beautiful companion, who has disappeared in the narrow streets and alleyways of London. It is a world of high society and artists as well as beggars and whores.
With skirts flapping Euthanasia forges her way through this romp of a crime novel, surveying the streets which Sherlock Holmes himself will not tread until a whole generation later.
"I have seen a good many cities. Berlin is a charming conglomeration of small villages, while Paris is truly urbane. But London surpasses them both. One can never quite make out London and the Londoners. Everything is here"
Swedish writer Carina Burman is a Ph.D and Assistant Professor at Uppsala University. She has written extensively on 18th and 19th century literature and has made a name for herself as a skilful writer of pastiche reflecting the language and atmosphere of days gone by. She is the author of five fiction novels. This is her second crime book.
It is a good, exciting book. It didn't really get to me, though. Maybe it's because I am male. But Euthanasia was a little too remote for for me, a little too elevated in her comments about the world. However, while I didn't like the characters all that much, I did enjoy the plot. Recommended with some reservations, is my conclusion.
Order The Streets of Babylon by Carine Burman from amazon UK.
Borkmann's Point, by Hakan Nesser
International bestseller Hakan Nesser made his U.S. debut with this excellent whodunit. Borkman's Point won the Swedish Crime Writers' Academy Prize for Best Novel in 1994.
Nesser's protagonist, in Borkman's Point as in other books, is Inspector Van Veeteren. He is a crusty, world weary, police officer. The horrors of twenty-first-century crime weighs heavily on his shoulders, and he is at times quite grumpy, but with a great sense of humor and even, sometimes, a little charm. Like Mankell's inspector Wallander, Van Veeteren listens to classical music and works methodically to solve crimes. He also plays chess, has been recently divorced, has the vice of smoking and loves fine wines. There is also more than a little Maigret in the Stockholm sleuth.
In Borkmann's Point, Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is vacationing when his superior calls to ask him if he could assist the Kaalbringen police department in solving the murders of an ex-con and a wealthy real-estate mogul, both of whom have been murdered with an ax. The victims appear to have no connection to each other.
Bored and restless, Van Veeteren agrees, happy to be able to apply his knowledge and experience to tracking the killer down. To Van Veeteren, like always, it is only a matter of time before the killer is caught. He believes deep down that he will recognize the murderer once he encounters him. His confidence is misplaced, however, as the investigation drags on for several weeks without uncovering a single promising lead.
When the killer claims a third victim and the town's best police investigator disappears without a trace, Van Veeteren, who has left only one case unsolved in his long career, intensifies his hunt. The inspector believes that in every case a point is reached where enough information has been gathered to solve the crime with "nothing more than some decent thinking."
Borkmann's Point is a well-written, thoughtful novel. Borkmann's Point is on the process of police work, the art and arduousness of investigation and detection. The book has been well received. It's a great read, and provides a good introduction to Hakan Nesser and Inspector Van Veeteren. Recommended!
Links to Borkmann's Point or The Mind's Eye, both by Hakan Nesser, at amazon UK! Also, links to amazon US: Borkmann's Point: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery, Mind's Eye: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery (Inspector Van Veeteren Mysteries), and the most recent Woman with Birthmark: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery.
The Hypnotist, by Lars Kepler
Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist starts with a bang; with the brutal murder - or perhaps slaughter is a better word – of a whole family in a Stockholm suburb. Two parents and their little daughter have been stabbed to death. An older brother, Josef Ek, 15 years old, is the only survivor in the house. He is in critical condition and extremely weak. All the members of the family, including Josef, have received multiple stab wounds. An older sister that has moved away has also survived the disaster.
The police investigator in charge of the case, Joona Linna (also featured in The Paganini Contract) feels certain that the killer will try to kill the surviving sister. But there are no clues on the murder scene. He cannot find any motive. And the only witness, Josef Ek, is still in a coma. So he decides to try to have the boy hypnotized, hoping that Josef has information that can lead him to the murderer. A specialist in hypnotism, Dr. Erik Maria Bark, is willing to return to his trade after a 10-year absence to help solve the crime.
The hypnotism works. Dr. Bark is able to make Josef talk about the killing of his family. However, the story he tells is puzzling, very surprising and not at all what Erik Maria Bark and detective Joona Linna had expected. And – is it turns out – the hypnotism sets in motion a new and terrifying chain of events. Without warning, a tidal wave of unforeseen violence and inexplicable events hits Erik and his family. And soon Erik will have to confront his past in an unexpected way. Instead of solving the case, the hypnosis has transformed the situation, and now the violence escalates. A door to a tormented brain - a human abyss – has been opened. It can’t easily be closed.
The Hypnotist has been a best-seller in the Scandinavian countries. And the sequel, entitled “The Paganini Contract” has topped the lists as well. The Hypnotist is a book with a special and interesting story. The reason is that there is no Lars Kepler. Lars Kepler is a pseudonym, and when The Hypnotist (original title Hypnotisören, published in Sweden in 2009) was published in Sweden it soon became clear that this was an outstanding book and would become a best-seller. Thus the media started a regular witch-hunt in Sweden to try to find out who had written it. And several well-known Swedish authors, including Jan Guillou and Henning Mankell, had to publicly deny that they had written it. So in the end, the authors - Alexander and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril, a married couple, 42 and 43 years old, had to go public.
The story in The Hypnotist is very intense and very violent; there are graphic images, physical abuse, psychological abuse, revenge, gang violence, and more. The plot is outstanding, very original and smart – much is in the end very different from what it initially seemed, and it is full of twists and turns that make it hard not to start biting nails. Lars Kepler and The Hypnotist keep readers guessing to the very end. I liked the book very much – and as the reception in Scandinavia and elsewhere clearly indicates, this is a very special, very rare debut novel. The Hypnotist is a breathtaking thriller!
Praise for The Hypnotist:
"A carefully woven web of suspense, a sharp dialogue and a very inventive way indeed of dealing with how a tormented brain works.” Swedish Radio
"The book's structure is tremendously skillful. The suspense and the uneasiness only increase, while I chew my nails shorter and shorter." Aftonbladet
”Lars Kepler enthralls readers with The Hypnotist, just like Stieg Larsson did with the Millennium-series… I just sit there, spellbound, while racking my brains trying to figure out who Lars Kepler is. The man who, with his magic wand, has created one of the best crime novels I have ever sacrificed a good night’s sleep for.” (Norrköpings Tidningar)
“A carefully woven web of suspense, a sharp dialogue and a very inventive way indeed of dealing with how a tormented brain works – add some Swedish ice to this mixture and what you get is Lars Kepler’s creation.” (Swedish Radio)
The Inner Circle (A Lonely Place), by Mari Jungstedt
The Swedish TV journalist and crime fiction auhor Mari Jungstedt has written a series of crime books where the action takes place at the beautiful and quiet Swedish island of Gotland, a place for which Jungstedt seems to hold a lot of love (see our reviews of Unseen and Unspoken). In this new interesting police procedural, The Inner Circle (or A Lonely Place, as it is called in Great Britain) a ritual killing occupies centre stage.
In The inner Circle, the starting point is with an archeological dig site, uncovering a Viking fortification dating back over a millennium (which gives Jungstedt an opportunity to educate readers on Viking history and legends). On this site, there is an international group of some twenty young archeology students. They are a happy and fun-loving crowd, partying together every night. Then one of them, the twenty-one-year-old Martina Flochten, disappears. When her naked body is found hanging from a tree, there is every indication that she has been the victim of a ritual killing.
Inspector Anders Knutas, heading the investigator into this crime, is posed with difficult questions: What do the marks on Martina's body signify? Is there possibly a connection between Martina's death and the recent and unsolved brutal beheading of a Gotland pony? Detective Superintendent Knutas is in for some serious frustration while trying to make sense of these seemingly senseless acts!
The police, and Inspector Anders Knutas, suspect the head of the dig site, Steffan Mellgren. He is married, has a wife and four children, but even so has a reputation as a Casanova. They think it possible that he is the mysterious lover Martina was supposed to have been meeting in secret, and whom none of her fellow archaeologists have actually seen. However, this theory turns out to be slightly flawed, as Mellgren himself is later found killed in exactly the same manner as Martina. Now Inspector Knutas is back to square one.
Inspector Knutas and his team work intensely to catch the killer. Even so, more bodies turn up, all of whom have been killed and mutilated the same way.
The Inner Circle is a very good book. Mari Jungstedt integrates a dose of Scandinavian mythology and addresses current issues on Gotland as well, while still mostly keeping up a fast-paced and intricate plot as Knutas and his colleagues close in on the killer, and gradually uncover the secret that connects the victims. My only complaint is that I think there is a little too much idle talk at times. However, even so, The Inner Circle is a very enjoyable, exciting Swedish crime fiction book: dark, atmospheric, and character-driven, and with an intelligent plot at the center.