xmas
Community

Three Seconds – To the Dark Side

It is a strange feeling when you start to feel support for a villain, even if it is just a fictional character. If  on reading this post, you’re thinking that sounds a tad like the so-called, ‘Stockholm Syndrome,’ you’d be right, – because I have just finished reading Three Seconds, a Swedish crime novel, set in Stockholm, an offering from writers Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom.

city hall stockholm
Stockholm in Winter

Being set in Sweden, with vignettes in Denmark and Poland, was enough to pique my interest in the story, but that increased tenfold when I began reading about Ewert Grens, the ageing Swedish detective. He is the kind who stubbornly refuses to give up on unsolved cases, and the plot contrasts him with another character, Piet Hoffman, a man with a secret life, who risks everything he loves every single day. As I read on, I thought, ‘Could these men ever be free of the choices they’d made?’

20161015_162120

The book makes you think and such is the skill of the authors that the reader might even find him/herself, as I did, admiring the villain, who is known to you from the start. No matter how murky his world becomes, no matter how much deception or corruption this character engages in, the reader is, surreptitiously, drawn to the ‘wrong’ side of the moral and legal fence, rather than championing the side of the police hero, who solves the crime.

I began to admire the criminal’s intellect, his fortitude and his cunning, to the point that I even began to secretly wish for him to ‘to come out on top,’  to be free, to beat the odds, yet knowing that he couldn’t possibly ever win. It was then that I thought, “How could I be siding with criminality?”

On reflection, I think, it is because the villain in this story is so human. He is just like any of us, a man faulted with good and bad feelings, a man with mixed emotions. A man who shows tenderness, and hardened self-control, but also one that faced some tough choices in navigating a duplicitous existence in the criminal underworld. Yes, that is why he has my sympathy.

Freedom is a package deal – with it comes responsibilities and consequences” – Anonymous

And so the plot continues until the final reveal and ‘twist,’ that arrives almost in the very last sentence! You are on the edge of your seat until the last. Wow… my kind of writing!!!

The inclusion of a final appendix of ‘notes,’ felt as if the authors wanted to answer the questions I already had spinning around in my head. That’s a unique and welcome surprise in a crime novel, especially considering the plot is not completely fictional! Knowing that gave me so much more to Ponder About.

Winner of the Swedish Crime Novel of the Year for 2009, Three Seconds dominated the Swedish best Sellers list for 18 months and was translated into English, in 2010.

Highly Recommended.  Forestwood’s Rating: 9/10

Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm, Sweden

Save

Save

Book review, Community

Book Review – “The Snowman”- Jo Nesbø; Harry Hole Series

Book review - The REDEEMER by Jo Nesbø, Crime fiction pick of the monthHarry Hole gets under your skin, and you feel ambivalent about him as a cop. There is much to dislike, in Nesbø tough, cool and marginal hero, but still we like him because he is almost as familiar as a dog-eared toothbrush. Just when you are feeling comfortable, it is at an end and time to start a new one.  And so it is with the Nesbø books.

They are fantastic reads, and one becomes so close to Harry, the central character, that one can predict his move, but then, he surprises us, with a twist we did not see coming.

As luck would have it, I have just finished reading The Bat, Nesbø’s first novel, (although published in English much later in the Harry Hole series), and The Snowman, refers to circumstances from The Bat, although I had no way of knowing that it would be releveant. Harry is convinced a serial killer is operating in Norway, and his expertise from his Australian trip (detailed in The Bat), both assists and  arrests progress in identifying the killer/s. (excuse the pun). An alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years, often occurring when the first snow comes to Norway…..

The house was large and yellow. Too big for a family of three, Harry thought, as they walked up the shingle path. Everything around them dripped and sighed. In the garden stood a snowman with a slight list and poor future prospects.

In an interview, Nesbø said he felt he went a little far in this and the next novel, The Leopard, which I am yet to read, and that he regrets that. He also said that the seemingly indestructible Harry will be killed off/retired in future novels.

There is some interesting commentary about policing in the novel when Katrine Bratt, a new detective from Bergen is assigned to help him on the case and when discussing whether beautiful people are more preoccupied with beauty than ugly people  obsessed with looking good even to the point of undertaking cosmetic surgery:

“I don’t know.” Karine said. “People with high IQs are so fixated on IQ that they have founded their own club, haven’t they? I suppose you focus on what you have. I would guess you’re fairly proud of your investigative talent.” 

” You mean the rat-catching gene? The innate ability to lock up people with mental illnesses, addiction problems, well under average intellect and well above average childhood deprivation?

Later in the book, Aune, Hole confidante and former psychological colleague, make a meaningful commentary about society, and punishment of crime.

 “The more aged I become, the more I tend to the view that evil is evil, mental illness or no. We’re all more or less disposed to evil actions, but our disposition cannot exonerate us. For heaven’s sake, we’re all sick with personality disorders. And it’s our actions which define how sick we are. We’re equal before the law we say, but it’s meaningless as long as no one is equal. During the Black Death, sailors who coughed, were immediately thrown overboard. Of course they were. For justice is a blunt knife, both as a philosophy and a judge.”

This story has the hallmark of Nesbø twists and turns, but the astute reader should be able to determine the culprits, despite the detours Nesbø puts in place. As one questions the various dances, the author makes his characters play, it is becoming easy to see I should listen to those questions more, if I want to solve the crime sooner.  Nesbø is a fantastic author and if you have never before read Scandinavian crime fiction, he is the one to read……

Rating:

The good: Descriptive, intriguing, and there is a snow man in the story!

The bad: Hole’s miscalculations and errors…. he is starting to slip up.

The Ugly: The crimes themselves……

9/10

Next on the TBR pile: Anne Holt 1222

Something to ponder about.