Saturday, May 12, 2007

Another Swedish Mystery!

OK, you know what? I'm gonna keep on posting about these Swedish crime novels until you commenters start readin' 'em.

The latest one I've discovered is The Princess of Burundi, by Kjell Eriksson, which won the Swedish Crime Academy's best novel award in, apparently, 1992. Why did it take so long to translate this book? I don't know. The translator is the able Ebba Segerberg, who translates the Henning Mankell novels, which I also like, but not as much as this one. The book is a rambling murder mystery; its point of view is roving, sticking mostly with a small cast of detectives, including the brooding Ola Haver and the regretful, obsessive Ann Lindell. It feels very much like it was plucked from the middle of a series, and indeed, there's another one out in English, which I've got on order.

Eriksson's writing is straightforward, dry, and egalitarian; the lives of the criminals and their pursuers are weighted equally, to fine effect. I usually hate the "mind of the killer" nonsense that most crime writers feel obliged to include in their books--it is almost invariably presented opportunistically and in direct violation of the rules of narrative, so that the bad guys just happen not to be thinking of all the vital facts of the case that you're not yet supposed to know--but when Eriksson does it, it's great, and it also isn't quite what you think it is, anyway. Plus it doesn't break the rules.

Henning Mankell has been called the heir to my favorite crime writers, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, but I think Eriksson, at least judging by this book, is closer to their ideal--like them, he is concerned with life as it is actually lived, and the idea that mystery is an inherent part of it, rather than with mystery as an aberration.

1 comment:

5 Red Pandas said...

Just today I decided to buy some books at a store on the upper west side- Murder Ink- to find that it was closed, and I'm afraid it's shut down. The book store next to it, another cozy bookstore, was definitely shuttered. I was very sad, but then I found some books at another tiny used book store further down Broadway, and my husband said he stumbled across another mystery bookstore in the Village today so there is still some hope.

I'll probably check it out next week and pick up some books. You and Rhian have turned me onto so many books- much in the way that I go turned onto different bands when I used to read Stephen Malkmus interviews to see what bands he'd name drop. A good way to explore. So thanks to both of you for pointing out the books- it's been good reading 'round these parts.