It’s a lot harder than it looks, remembering to check in even for day two. What will I write about?
Well I’ve almost finished The Laughing Policeman by Scandi crime writing duo Sjöwall & Wahlöö. If you’re not familiar, Sjöwall & Wahlöö were a couple who wrote together up until Per Wahlöö’s death in the 70’s. They’re often referred to as the grandparents of crime fiction. Their joint series are often referred to as the Martin Beck series after the moody and very flawed protagonist. The laughing policeman is the 4th in the series, and I’m almost finished. I think i know who-dunnit unless I get thrown a curve ball in the last 20 or so pages – however this is entirely possible.
It’s quite different from today’s Scandi crime novels that are now so popular – with no DNA, or much forensics to go on, no computer databases or CCTV, the pace is even slower than usual. There’s also very different social issues and moral attitudes of post-war Sweden woven into the depths of these compelling novels.
If you have a favourite from this series let me know in the comments!
I can’t remember when I last gave a book 5/5? However I felt that this feat of Nordic Noir deserved it simply for leaving me feeling utterly hopeless! I found myself staring at the page, thinking ‘he (Grant Nicol) wouldn’t really do that… would he? well if you want to know, you’ll have to read it and find out for yourself! If you’re partial to crimes and emotions being resolved, loose ends nicely tied in bows, then maybe this isn’t the book for you. Without giving too much away, this is a dark tale set in Reykjavik and the surrounding areas and centres on a young woman Ylfa, her two sisters and their elderly father. The story is told in the first person from Ylfa’s perspective which works really well, and for all intents and purposes you would assume that she is the main character of the book. However as I was browsing the follow up books in the series, I noted that they are subtitled ‘The Grímur Karlsson Mysteries’ Grimur being the detective in this series. I have to admit it struck me as a little strange that someone who in all honestly played such a minor part in this initial book would be the defining character of the series, but we’ll see – hopefully the character gets developed more in the follow up The Mistake I’m about to start…
I only noticed that it’d not read this book when tidying up my wish list, hastily ordered because I couldn’t believe I’d missed another instalment of the ever pensive Erlendur. It didn’t take long to realise that this was a prequel, the book cover features an eerie looking blue lagoon, not the fun n frolic-y one we’re used to seeing in tourist photos, and as the first crime unfolds it becomes apparent it was set before the blue lagoon existed as a private entity.
The story (or stories as there is never just one thread in these books) are centred around activity related to the air force base at Keflavik, a murder and a missing persons cold case. This gives you some insight into Elendur’s fascination with missing persons whichs is a constant thread woven throughout the later series even if you’ve never read any of the other books that reveal the whole back story. So you can read this as a standalone book and not feel like you’re missing out. The other story is investigated mostly by Erlendur’s mentor, Marion Briem – which again fills out some back story missing from the later set books. I’m hoping that this continues – as I feel that this would be a really interesting addition to the series. I dont want to say much about the story as I feel that this would spoil the plot too much, but as usual the plot is a slow boiling stew with the tension mounting more than I expected towards the final few chapters and I really didn’t want to stop reading but had to go to work!
OK so technically we’re into hour 11, 9 for me as i started so late.. which makes me feel slightly better about that fact that I haven’t read as much as I intended.
I did read Albert Camus – The Sea Close By, although short (it’s actually two stories, 23 pages long), it wasn’t like a modern fiction novel that I could speed read, it required ingestion of the words and took a lot longer than anticipated. I did however enjoy it, but I think today I’ve spent entirely too much time checking out other people’s posts and challenges.. it’s like oh the clock is hitting the hour -a new challenge is due, and before I know it, there’s less than 30 minutes left in that hour.. Arrg! Not to mention an impromptu trip to the supermarket to get snack and stuff..
For my second book I chose Bad Blood by Arne Dahl, I feel like these translations are a long time coming compared perhaps to other Scandi/Nordic crime fiction. I struggled to find my books on Goodreads as well which was new to me and given that the TV versions of the book were first shown on BBC4 three years ago, it feels like there is some delay compared to others in the genre. An interesting point about this book series (for me at least) was realising that in the TV version they made the A Unit team leader a woman, same name, just swapped gender, I’m going to guess because the novel has such a male orientated cast and it needed evening out for TV? Also reading this reminded me to log into Duolingo and do my daily Swedish practice ( I think I can probably order a meal for for men and women, particularly if that meal includes turtle). My intention was to read ‘a few chapters’ before moving to something else, but I’m at chapter 10 already so I may just stick with it tonight, as i’m probably going to flake soon and read something different in the morning.
I also tried reading standing up tonight, mostly because I was trying to hit 10k steps today, so the only way was to read whilst ‘walking’ and a bit whilst dancing as I’ve been listening to 6 Music since about 8pm. My overall take home, whilst it certainly works, and keeps me awake, it also leaves me a bit unsteady on my feet – circuits of the living room particularly. Jogging on the spot is probably easiest to manage book in hand, but also the most boring. I’ve also reached that stage of “my eyes hurt because they’ve dried out” so contacts out, glasses on, eye drops being liberally applied, all in the name of reading just a few more pages before bed…
As not really being enamoured by Easter eggs, I find the chocolate a bit of a let down, like advent calendar style, the thing I’ve been most looking forward to with the long weekend was the chance to catch up on some reading. Yesterday I finished reading Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s Silence of the Sea which I haven’t yet written a review of, the tension had me gripped right until the last page, and it gave me chills at certain points it was so creepy! I loved it and need to get my hands on more of the series. I’m currently trying to hold off writing book reviews, mostly because I never feel like I can do it justice – do you give a run down of the whole plot? which could essentially include spoilers? if not how do you say what you enjoyed without giving away the story? thankfully I’m starting a course in a couple of week’s about Critical Reading, and part of that includes writing critically about what you’ve read, so I’m hoping this will help me improve in this area.
Next up on my list for this weekend is Torkil Damhaug’s Medusa – I have no idea what it’s about, I was buying some books from The Work’s and needed to buy a couple extra to take advantage of a deal, so searched for ‘Scandinavian Crime’ (one of my favourite genres if you hadn’t guessed already), and bought the handful they had.
Then this morning I read this great article over at Visit Norway about – the Norwegian tradition of reading crime books at Easter called Påskekrim (Easter crime), apparently came about in 1923 when two poor writers decided to try and cash in, by writing an Easter themed crime novel, that garnered loads of publicity and the rest as they say, is history.
So it was serendipity that I chose a Norwegian crime novel to read for Easter, and I think I’m going to over indulge in Påskekrim every Easter and I’d love to get some more recommendations in the comments.