The Princess of Burundi, by Kjell Eriksson

In Libro, near Uppsala in Sweden, people are stunned when the mutilated corpse of John Harald Jonsson - husband, father - is found in the snow. Jonsson is an expert in tropical fish and fish aquariums and former thug. Based on the disfigurement, it seems whoever killed him, passionately hated John. Three cut off fingers, slashes and burn marks show that he suffered while alive.

Kjell Eriksson

Kjell Eriksson

Author and horticulturist, born 1953. For his crime novel, Den Upplyste Stigen (The Illuminated Path), Kjell Eriksson was awarded the 1999 Prize for Best First Novel by the Swedish Crime Academy.

The next two novels were shortlisted for the Prize for Best Swedish Crime Novel which he won in 2002 for his fourth crime novel, Prinsessan Av Burundi (The Princess Of Burundi).

His fifth crime novel featuring crime inspector Ann Lindell is "Nattskärran" (2003) (The Night Jar), and for the fifth time Kjell Eriksson was nominated for the most important Swedish prize in crime.

For the sixth time, Kjell Eriksson was nominated for the Prize for Best Swedish Crime Novel, viz. for his novel Nattens Grymma Stjärnor (2004) (The Cruel Stars Of The Night). Mannen Från Bergen (2005) (The Man From The Mountains), is the seventh in the Ann-Lindell series. It has been followed by Den Hand Som Skälver (The Hand That Trembles ) in 2007 (published in the US in August 2011), and Svarta lögner, rött blod (2008), and Öppen grav (2009).

The Princess of Burundi, by Kjell ErikssonThis is the setting for the very entertaining The Princess of Burundi, by Kjell Eriksson.

Homicide detectives Ola Haver and Ann Lindell, who comes off maternity leave to work the case, hone in on a forty-two year old troubled person, his family, and especially an acrimonious nutcase who apparently had a run in with John. The victim's teenage son, Justus, knows enough of his father's secrets that he could put the police on the trail of his father's murderer, but he chooses to confide in no one.

The police team assigned to this case is concerned and human, and they work their way toward the solution of this crime. At the same time Uppsala citizens are murdered seemingly at random. The police force is alerted to a local sociopath named Vincent Hahn, coincidently a former classmate of Little John, who seeks retribution for torment exacted upon him by his old schoolmates. Several violent confrontations make him a prime suspect in Little John's murder. As the police continue to investigate, they discover that Little John had come into a large sum of money, a result of winnings in a high stakes poker match. His windfall was a secret from his wife Berit but his young teenaged son Justus was aware of his father's plan to rise above their blue collar existence, using his gambling proceeds.

In The Princess of Burundi, we are introduced to Ann Lindell, the main figure in Eriksson's police procedurals. She is a single mother. Eriksson lets us know that Ann would love to have an hour a day or so with her son, but no more. She loves her work and her interaction with colleagues. At times, Ann shows little consideration for others.

The Princess of Burundi is well written. Eriksson empathizes with his characters, but maintains sufficient distance to reserve judgment. A portrait of the place emerges through the people and the plot arises from their characters. The entangled relationships among the police, the victim, and the victim's family are compelling. This is a good, solid psychological fiction and a good police procedural. Kjell Eriksson is an interesting author. The only negative note, for me, is that it takes a little too long for my patience before the suspense builds. But when it does, it's for real.


The Cruel Stars of the Night, by Kjell Eriksson

The Cruel Stars of the Night is the second novel by Swedish author Kjell Eriksson that has been translated into English. The first was the highly praised novel The Princess of Burundi (released in the United States 2006, but winner of the Swedish Crime Academy Award for Best Crime Novel in 1992).

The murder of an elderly farmer and the disappearance of a classicsCruel Stars of the Night, by Kjell Eriksson professor are the events that start the action. The Violent Crimes Unit of Sweden’s Uppsala police department is baffled by the seemingly random nature of the crimes: the vanished professor may or may not be linked to the homicide they’re investigating, a crime that itself has no apparent motive.

"Why kill two seventy-year-old farmers? Just as in Blomgren’s house, nothing here was touched. Straight into the house, bash the old man’s head in, and leave the same way. That’s how the whole thing must have happened."

Eriksson eschews crackling dialogue and facile descriptions in favor of longer, slower developing profiles of the principal men and women of the police unit: Ann Lindell, Ola Haver, Sammy Nilsson, Allan Fredricksson and others. Their investigation proceeds in parallel with the story of Laura Hindersten, daughter of the missing man. Eriksson balances these stories nicely as the detectives reach for clues. Ann Lindell emerges as the most compelling investigator, but the others are also distinct individuals.

Inspector Lindell is thorough, something of a loner in the squad, and a single mother with a young son to look after. It this book, Eriksson again displays considerable finesse in portraying the inner lives of his cast and in showing how the various inspectors attempt to cope with the strains of the job.

The Cruel Stars of the Night is an interesting book, due to author Eriksson’s restless inquiry into Laura’s state of mind, and his eye for detail at every turn.

Kjell Eriksson has been compared both to Henning Mankell (The Man Who Smiled) and to the late Ed McBain. Eriksson’s sense of humor lingers beneath the surface. The Cruel Stars of the Night is not an action-filled thriller. Eriksson lets the tension build slowly, playing out the psychological clues like an expert angler - ensuring his audience is hooked before ratcheting up the tension. It is possible to take breaks from the book in the early chapters, but once the pieces begin to fall together, The Cruel Stars of the Night becomes difficult to put down.

The Demon of Dakar, by Kjell Eriksson

The Demon of Dakar is the third book by Kjell Eriksson about Detective Ann Lindell of the Uppsala police. The first was The Princess of Burundi, and the second The Cruel Stars of the Night.

The life of Manuel Alavez, a Mexican peasant, has changed for the worse. One of his brothers have died, the other is imprisoned in Sweden for drug smuggling. Both were set up by a stranger. The Zapotek indians of Mexico, Manuel's tribe, call such men bhni guí’a. They tempt people with riches and a good life, but take their souls in return.

The Demon of Dakar, by Kjell Eriksson Manuel decides to go to Sweden. He learns that the demon is the unpleasant owner of two restaurants in Uppsala, who along with his partner has set up a smuggling operation to finance his restaurant empire. His name is Slobodan Andersson.

One day Ann Lindell shows up in the restaurant. Slobodan's partner, Armas,has been killed, and has been found with his throat sliced. All clues lead straight back to the popular restaurant Dakar, owned by Slobodan Andersson. has some shady connections in his past, and his partner's reputation is equally murky.

The murder of Armas seems to have started a wild chain of violent and dramatic events, centered around restaurant Dakar. A large number of people are suspicious. The meat chef is an oddball, to say the least. The newest hire's personal life is a tangled web of lies. Even Eva Willman, the seemingly blameless older woman returning to the workforce as a waitress, has skeletons in her closet. Ann Lindell feels she is chasing some shadow on a revenge mission that is likely to hit again.

The Demon of Dakar is a wonderful police procedural. If Ann is to prevent a bloodbath, she must match wits with an invisible killer whose motives are seemingly completely obscure.

But the reader knows the killer well. To him, the crimes are justified. Actually, he's a very likable fellow who is only looking for justice.

In The Demon of Dakar, as in all of Kjell Eriksson's compelling spellbinders, though, justice entails a frantic race to the finish, a race without rules and fraught with danger.

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