Island of the Naked Women, by Inger Frimansson
Born November 14, 1944, Frimansson is a popular Swedish novelist and crime writer. She has worked for 30 years as a journalist. She publushed her first book, The Double Bed (Dubbelsängen), in 1984. Her crime fiction novels are often and perhaps best described as psychological thrillers. Her breakthrough was with Godnatt, min älskade (Good Night, My Darling) in 1998. Inger Frimansson is the only woman that have recieved the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award twice.
Altogether Frimansson has written around 25 novels - some books for youths, some fiction, and some crime fiction or thrillers. I recently read her latest book, Råttfångerskan, in Swedish, and liked it a lot. I hope more of her books will be translated into English.
- 1984 – Dubbelsängen
- 1993 – Mannen som flöt över bergen
- 1994 – Soldaternas dotter
- 1997 – Fruktar jag intet ont
- 1998 – God natt min älskade (2007 Good Night My Darling)
- 2000 - Katten som inte dog (2013) The Cat Did Not Die
- 2001 – Ett mycket bättre liv
- 2002 – De nakna kvinnornas ö (2009 The Island of the Naked Women)
- 2003 – Mörkerspår
- 2005 – Skuggan i vattnet (2008 The Shadow in the Water)
- 2009 – De starkare
- 2009 – Råttfångerskan
- 2010 - De starkare
- 1998 - Best Swedish Crime Novel Award for Godnatt, min älskade.
- 2005 - Best Swedish Crime Novel Award for Skuggan i vattnet.
- 2008 - Gold - Best Translated Book for Good Night, my Darling, translated by Laura A. Wideburg, by ForeWord Magazine
Inger Frimansson is a Swedish author and journalist who writes psychological thrillers, in many ways similar in style to Karin Alvtegen and Karin Fossum. Her breakthrough in Sweden came with the novel Good Night, My Darling in 1998 (see also our review of The Shadow in the Water).
If you expect Island of Naked Women to be a soft porn novel, you are in for a disappointment. The title has a historical explanation, but is somewhat parenthetical to the content of the novel. Instead, this is another psychological thriller by Inger Frimansson, written in a style she masters to perfection. In the first 50 or so pages she sets the stage for an exciting and suspenseful novel with a tense atmosphere. And when things start to happen, the consequences are bad both in a real sense and psychologically – and it really feels as if they had to be bad, nothing else would have been right in the dark scene so vividly drawn by Frimansson.
In Island of the Naked Woman (superbly translated from Swedish by Laura Wideburg), writer Tobias Elmkvist, a Stockholm novelist with career troubles, tired and at times deeply depressed, returns to his childhood home in Östgötaland to visit and help his father, Carl Sigvard. His relationship to him is not good, as Tobias (wrongly) feels that his father is ashamed of him. Even so he feels that he now needs to help his father who is confined to his bed after having broken his leg.
When he arrives, he meets his father’s younger partner, the somewhat coarse Sabina Johansson, and finds himself strongly attracted to her. As it turns out, the attraction is mutual. And shortly after, as Tobias and Sabina give in to their desires in a barn tack-room, a disapproving local, Hardy Lindström, walks in and confronts them. Tobias gets scared, and plunges a screwdriver into Lindstrom’s throat. He thinks he has killed him. However, when he later returns to the barn, he finds no trace of the body and no blood. Was it a dream? Did he imagine it all?
Island of the Naked Women is more a psychological thriller than a mystery novel. There is no mystery in the book for the reader. Rather this is more a study of guilt and emotions associated with it. It is well written and composed, and the characters are very intriguing, constructed in a manner that makes for strange dynamics and lots of tension. A good, suspenseful book with a tense atmosphere which I recommend.
Inger Frimansson is well established as a Swedish crime writer, and Good Night, My Darling is one of her best books. It has won the Swedish Academy of Mystery Authors Award for Best Swedish Crime Novel in 1998. It has been excellently translated by Laura A. Wideburg, and is a pleasure to read. The style is consise and suggestive and well suited to the story.
Good Night, My Darling is the first book in a series about the mysterious Justine Dalvik, a wealthy and eccentric woman in her forties living alone in a big house by the beach, with a bird as her only companion. It is a beautiful house, but full of memories of a tortured childhood. It is the house to which her father brough her evil stepmother Flora. As readers, we are witnesses to her childhood hardships. And we start to actually to some extent feel vindictive on her behalf. However, not until Justine is in her forties does she catch up with the our feelings.
Inger Frimansson lets readers enter Justine's child-like thoughts of being an almost willing victim while she at the same time notices and absorbs both the hurt and the methods of cruelty used to hurt her. We sympathize with Justine the child, but as she grows to maturity we become less sympathetic. And now the memories come back to haunt Justine, but she is prepared. It is time for Justine to take revenge on everyone who has done her wrong. Terrible things start to happen.
Inger Frimansson has the courage to experiment with the crime genre. Good night, my darling is not a whodunit or a thriller. This book is a how-could-she-do-it. In her effort to understand this – to peer into the mind of a very dark soul – Frimansson has written a deeply psychological crime novel which in several ways reminds me of the Norwegian author Karin Fossum, who also penetrates deeply into the minds of the criminals.
Good Night, My Darling takes a while to really pick up speed, but when it does, the tension is almost unbearable. When you reach this point, putting it down does not feel as an option before the end is reached.
Praise for Good Night, My Darling:
“With this book, she stands out as one of the great authors of psychological suspense in contemporary Swedish literature.” —GT
“.. whereas Mankell often tries to pinpoint the external factors which shape our lives, Frimansson concentrates on what we look like on the inside; what it feels like to be at someone’s mercy.” —Eskilstuna Kuriren
“A thriller about a woman's lust for revenge, so scary it gives you the shivers.” —Aftonbladet
The Cat Did Not Die, by Inger Frimansson
We are in Sweden. It is summer. It's beautiful, life is easy. A young couple is vacationing in a remote farmhouse. Beth and Ulf. A teacher, a journalist. They are alone, in love. The strawberries are in season, the wine is good, the sun shines. Life is so good it can't get much better.
Then, a stranger enters the scene. At the wrong time, looking the wrong way; a bit scary. Beth reacts quickly. Overreacts, actually. And kills the man with her axe. There is blood everywhere. And a body. The body of an unknown man. A cat is looking at them. Now what?
Beth and Ulf start on their way to self-destruction. Bad decisions followed by poor choices. Mostly choices driven by their preference to avoid pain, problems and complications. Their life had so far been nice, orderly, and pretty. They would very much like it to continue to be nice, orderly, and pretty. Why should something that happened in a matter of seconds, something meaningless, odd, so totally not them, not at all what they wanted, be allowed to impact their life? They bury the body behind the farmhouse. So, no body, no problem…right?
Inger Frimansson is a wonderful writer and a master of the psychological thriller genre. In The Cat Did Not Die we once again meet a seemingly harmonious idyll where something awful accidentally enters and then completely pollutes it. A new, morbid, odd, twisted reality increasingly replaces the harmony, wiggles its way to the front, and imprisons the actors in a drama where the choices become increasingly restrained.
Frimansson writes in a clear, concise, suggestive and understated style. She is a bestselling author in Scandinavia, and has received the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers Award for Best Mystery for Good Night, My Darling and for The Shadow in the Water. She is very skillful at building tension. In The Cat Did Not Die she also – as in some of her other books – uses the cat as an omen, a symbol, to great effect.
The Cat Did Not Die is both interesting and entertaining, masterfully illuminating the doom that can sometimes reside in the smallest of details and gradually, but ever so carefully, grow its destructive influence. It is a masterful crime fiction novel by Frimansson - one of Scandinavia's best pens.