Misterioso, by Arne Dahl
Misterioso is the first volume in a series of books by Swedish author Arne Dahl (aka literary critic and writer Jan Arnald, see image below right) featuring the Swedish detective Paul Hjelm and the A-Team in the Swedish police. The series is often referred to as the Intercrime series. Misterioso is the first book in the series chronologically speaking, but Ont blod (Evil Blood) was actually the first book Arne Dahl wrote in this series.
So far there have been 11 books published in this series in Swedish. Arne Dahl has been awarded a number of Danish, Swedish and German prizes for this series, among them the Deutcher Krimi Preis (2005 and 2006).
The title of the book refers to Thelonious Monk's song "Misterioso& (see Amazon US), which plays an interesting part in the mystery. But it is also a play with words – Misterioso makes one think of “mystery” and “mist”, both of which there are plenty of in this wonderful novel.
The main protagonist is detective Paul Hjelm. His is a thoughtful, pondering and intelligent detective who is also very sympathetic and intriguing. He is in a difficult marriage, and is the father of two children. Also, interestingly he is on the verge of being fired for an act of bravery, when he is transferred to an elite investigative unit that is being formed in the Swedish police force instead: The A-Team.
The A-Team is charged with stopping a serial murderer who is killing members of the Swedish business elite. The victims are executed by two bullets to the head in a very professional fashion. The murderer leaves nothing on the scene of the crime: he shoots his victims in their own living rooms, always in front of a wall so that he can dig the bullets out, removing them from the scene of the crime, and leaves no clues for the police. Very soon the media starts calling him the “Power Killer”.
The A-Team attacks the case from several angels at the same time – mapping out business connections among the victims, common social ties, similarities in their backgrounds, and so on. Initially the investigation leads in the direction of a somewhat obscure and strange elite social club – one of those societies where men meet and engage in odd rituals, bond, and establish strong relationships that can be very beneficial in business and politics. The team is working under tremendous time pressure; the murderer seems to strike every two days. If they are able to guess correctly about the identity of the next victim, they can perhaps save a life and catch the serial killer. If they are wrong, they will find another body next morning.
Paul Hjelm and his colleagues feel the heat and work day and night. As he engages in teamwork with his new colleagues, he learns to respect them and their work. And one of them, Kerstin Holm, is not only a very good detective, but quite attractive as well. His already difficult marriage will soon get even worse.
Misterioso is a very well-written and excellently plotted crime fiction novel with interesting leads, false starts, misunderstandings and interesting reasoning leading to all sorts of twist and turns. The translation by Tiina Nunnally is very good. It a solid police procedural with a group of very interesting characters. You will love Arne Dahl’s writing, and you will probably love the members of the A-Team as well: The Latino "blackhead" Jorge Chavez, the crazy Finn who once was a lawyer, the exotic and wise Kerstin Holm and the rest. Misterioso is a very suspenseful and entertaining novel – a very satisfying read!
I have read most of the books in the series, and I can assure you that there is a lot of excellent crime fiction from Arne Dahl to look forward to.
Reviews of Misterioso:
“This is, without a doubt, one of the best Swedish crime novels of the year; well-written . . . and a chilling blow to the ways of contemporary society.” —Götesborgs-Posten (Sweden)
“It seems as though Sweden has once again produced a brilliant and socially engaged crime novelist.” —Fyens Stiftstidende (Denmark)
“Arne Dahl is phenomenal . . . Few Swedish crime novelists, if any, can get the reader to rush through each page like Dahl.” —Expressen (Sweden)
“With Misterioso, Arne Dahl, an acclaimed master of the crime genre, has delivered one of his most intensely intriguing thrillers.” —Corriere Della Sera (Italy)
“Dahl’s character studies of people in vulnerable situations are in the top class of the European detective novel genre.” —Die Zeit (Germany)