Birdman by Mo Hayder

Birdman was the first novel I read by Mo Hayder. I found it randomly at the library and thought I would give it a chance since it was by an English female crime writer and that is usually a good combination. It is a bit strange that I gave Hayder another chance after this novel, because my first impression was not the best. Birdman is very bloody and graphic, almost to the point where you have to put the book away sometimes. So I want to issue a warning to sensitive readers.

Storyline

A number of women are found murdered at a junkyard close to the Millennium Dome in London. The murders are unusually cruel and the London police soon realize that they are dealing with an extremely twisted serial killer that leaves a special signature: a small live bird sown into the victim’s chest.

Jack Caffrey is the hero supposed to solve the case. A detective tormented by his brother’s disappearance during their childhod. A case he still tries to solve at the same time as the man, a convicted pedophile who is suspected of abducting the brother, still lives next door.

A Few Thoughts

Birdman is the first novel about Jack Caffery but it is not a part of The Walking Man series. I am still torn about the graphic and sexual violence that is described in the novel. Normally I get too upset about graphic sexual violence in novels and I often get an aversion to the novel instead of an exciting reading experience. Stieg Larsson’s trilogy is one example. The horrible rape of Lisbeth Salander in the first novel was enough to put me off all three novels. I just could not take it. Maybe I am too sensitive?

 

The Monogram Murders (Poirot) by Sophie Hannah

Agatha Christie’s relatives have apparently authorized Sophie Hannah to write a new Poirot story. I do not know what to think about that. After much consideration I think I am cautiously optimistic about it, as long as the characters and Christie’s authorship are treated with respect.

First Novel…I assume there will be more?

The Monogram Murders contains all the ingredients for a classic Poirot mystery. It starts with a murder where the victim is found with a monogrammed cufflink in the mouth. Poirot gets involved and the solution to the mystery is found after a long investigation with a lot of red herrings along the way.

It does not feel like a traditional Christie novel, but more like a modern crime novel. Is that good or bad? I do not know. When it comes to Poirot I am influenced by the TV-series with David Suchet. I have seen every episode and for me David Suchet IS Poirot. But the TV-series differs a lot from the novels, and sometimes it is hard to separate the novels’ Poirot from the one in the TV-series when I compare them to the new novel.

Summary

I must admit that Hannah has succeeded. The style feels like an updated Christie and Poirot is portrayed correctly. But the storyline is not one of the best Poirot mysteries, but not the worst either. Definitely worth reading!

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Sharp objects by Gillian Flynn

 

This is the third book I’ve read by the author Gillian Flynn and the first of the three separate books she’s written. For being the first book it’s more brutal and dark than her other books but you couldn’t really put your finger on why. I would describe it as a Thriller in a Dollhouse. The allegory isn’t far of the truth either.

 

You could say that the core of the story takes place in Camille’s hometown, or to be more specific, in her old childhood home.  Camille, being a journalist, is reluctantly sent back to her hometown to unravel the case of the two young girls murdered there. She is not only forced back to the old neighbourhood but also to her own past, meanwhile living with her mother.

 

But the world outside her mothers house is like a foggy mixture of the real housewives of New Jersey and True Detective. The civic life of the Chicago pulse which Camille leaves behind is merely a whisper in the back of our minds. That’s all left behind her and she is far, far away from anything that comes near civil behaviour. Throughout the book Chicago, and foremost the conversations with her boss Mr Curry, is the laps in time and space in witch Camille is given a chance to breath. But it’s much like giving a drowning man a straw to breath through. It helps, but not nearly enough.

 

Corporal focus

Its not even important what the characters are saying nor what they are not saying.  The bodies are explicitly speaking for them in a number of ways. For Camille this is essential. Her body is etching, stretching, screaming. Its constantly telling/ tempting her like a painful struggle for forbidden pleasure.

 

A few things a love about the book:

 

The language. It’s raw and awake. It doesn’t hide anything, nor is it ashamed of anything. With simple means you are smitten with a strong feeling of illness. And you commit to different characters only through a few describing words. And as always, the title is beautifully placed.

 

The adulthood that is distilled down to Camille, a cocktail of the sense of being an adult and at the same time a child. The bounders in between are merged together. To have cravings and impulses and needs like a child is one thing, but to have them as an adult its shamefully painful.

 

Do you think you can figure out how it’s all linked? – Brace yourself for the exciting solution that isn’t primarily about who committed the murders of the girls.

 

As with all of Flynn’s works, the resolution of the crime is not of utmost importance, but rather the process of unravelling the story. The way the story shapes and changes, and keeps you guessing at all times, is what really makes this story a fantastic experience. It makes for a very pleasurable, albeit sometimes almost stressful, read.

Stalker by Lars Kepler

Someone is secretly filming women, then sending the clip to the police and shortly thereafter killing them. The murders remind the police of a murder that happened nine years ago, but the priest Rocky Kyrklund who was convicted is still in prison. Detective Inspector Joona Linna (from Kepler’s previous novels) is missing and assumed dead. In his absence the pregnant Margot Silverman becomes responsible for the investigation. Psychiatrist Erik Maria Bark is called in. When he hypnotizes the husband of one victim he realizes that his career may be in danger and lies to the police.

Perfect Title

Stalker is Lars Kepler’s fifth novel and what can I say, the novels just get better and better and Lars Kepler (or rather the Ahndoril’s who is behind the pseudonym) is now one of my favorite Swedish crime writers. I was hooked a few pages into the book and I was so scared that I made sure that all windows and doors were locked and I asked my husband to walk the dog… I really recommend this book, but I would lock the doors and close the curtains before you start reading.

Retaliation by Thomas Erikson

Zoran Roskic has committed many serious crimes and he is in the police’s custody waiting for his trial when the novel begins. In previous cases his attorney has always been able to get him acquitted, but this time the evidence is watertight. Or at least they think it is. There are some suspicions that there is a leak within the police department and behavioral scientist Alex King is called in. His girlfriend Nina is part of the team, but he cannot tell her about his task.

Strange Court Case

Then Roskic’s attorney is murdered. When a new one has been assigned that one is killed to. Is someone trying to kill Roskic or his attorneys? It is getting increasingly difficult to get anyone to accept the job as Roskic’s attorney. What will they do if no one wants to defend him? Can you proceed with the court case anyway?

Revenge

Retaliation is the fourth novel in the Alex King series; it follows The Illusion, Atrocity and Vanmakt (Swedish title). Roskic has hurt many and it is time for retaliation. Revenge is a classic theme, but the novel has an interesting setup since Roscik is already behind bars when the novel begins.

Blue, Green, Red or Yellow?

Alex King analyzes people’s behavior with remarkable precision, but it does not mean that he always handles people in the best way. In other words, Alex is only human, which makes it easier to relate to him. I find behavioral science very fascinating and once again I cannot help but wonder which color I really am.

 

Original title in Swedish: Vedergällning (Note: Retaliation is the direct translation, but I am not sure what the English title will be)

Sebastian Bergman is back

A whole family, mother, father, and two sons, are murdered in Torsby in Sweden. The local police needs help and the national police along with Sebastian Bergman, psychologist an expert profiler, is called in. The boys’ ten-year-old cousin Nicole was visiting but is missing. Nicole is found but is too shocked to speak. She reminds Sebastian of his own daughter, who died in the tsunami in Thailand. He is doing everything he can to get Nicole to trust him. The killer is doing everything to find and silence the girl permanently, since she is the only witness.

Sebastian Bergman

The Silent Girl (direct translation, not sure what the title will be) by Michael Hjorth & Hans Rosenfeldt* is the fourth novel in the series about Sebastian Bergman. And what can I say, Sebastian Bergman, the sex-addicted, narcissistic criminal psychologist has not changed one bit. If you have liked the other novels in the series you will not be disappointed.

The sidetrack with his biological daughter continues. He has managed to create a friendship with her (she still does not know that he is her father) thanks to his collaboration with the police. You cannot help but wonder when he (or someone else) will reveal the truth.

Dysfunctional Team

Sebastian is the main character but we also get to follow the private relationships of the other people on the team, and they all have their fair share of problems. The team is dysfunctional but that appeals to readers, me included. The novel ends with a cliffhanger and I look forward to the next novel in the series.

 

Original title in Swedish: Den stumma flickan

*Hans Rosenfeldt is also the creator of the TV show The Bridge.

The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker

Young Talented Author

This novel has been a success around the world. When I had finished the novel I saw a photo of the author Joël Dicker on the back cover. Dicker is a young Swiss man born 1985 (!) and he has written a novel that feels so mature. Life is unfair!

Marcus Goldman

…is the novel’s narrator. Marcus is a young author, whose debut novel was a success. The problem is that he gets writer’s block when he tries to write the sequel. At first the publisher is laidback but as time passes they put pressure on him. At last he asks his mentor Harry Quebert for help. Harry lives in a small town on the west coast and he is one of the most well-known authors in the U.S. He wrote the critically acclaimed novel The Root of All Evil, a love story about impossible love.

Murder Mystery

When Harry is suspected of killing a young girl that disappeared in the 1970s the entire country is shocked. The 15-year-old Nola is found murdered in Harry’s yard with a copy of The Root of All Evil. It does not look good, but Marcus is convinced that his friend is innocent and he starts looking into the past. It is a small town and the people who were there when the girl disappeared are still around. Secrets are revealed and old truths are tested.

Clever and Suspenseful

The novel is skillfully composed. It is very suspenseful and has the perfect tone. Technically the novel has several different timelines and complicated threads/relationships and it deals with many interesting topics, such as the border between truth and fiction. How can an author write a sequel to a critically acclaimed novel without getting anxiety? And then we have the small-town façade with its crumbling interior. I can only agree with the rest of the world, who thinks this is a novel worth reading.

 

The Shadows by Katarina Wennstam

An Eye for an Eye, a Tooth for a Tooth

Men who hate women, abusers and rapists have to look out. In Wennstam’s latest novel we get to meet a group of women who have decided that society’s punishments are not enough and they retaliate with the same amount of punches, burns, broken bones or wounds that the men have inflicted on the women. No more, no less. The group receives a lot of public support and many think that the men only have themselves to blame.

It’s Only Fair

The novel is not really credible and not very suspenseful, but it is still worth reading and it encourages reflection. It is very current, because these days many news stories cover cases where rapist are acquitted in the Swedish courts, but it does not justify people taking matters into their own hands. I think the most interesting aspect is the effect the crimes have, and the police warn men of walking alone at night (i.e. they get to experience what it is like for women). As a woman I cannot help but thinking “it’s only fair.”

 

Original title in Swedish: Skuggorna

Interview with Jenny Rogneby

Photo: Mikael Eriksson

Jenny Rogneby’s first crime novel about Leona Lindberg was recently released. The novel was a breath of fresh air and impossible to put down.

Jenny, welcome to TheCrimeHouse!

For our readers who may not know who you are, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a 40-year-old criminologist and I work as an investigator at the City Police in Stockholm, Sweden. I was born in Ethiopia, grew up in Boden in northern Sweden, and have lived in Stockholm for many years. I recently published my first crime novel in a series about the police Leona Lindberg.

It must be an advantage to be a criminologist and an investigator when you write crime novels. But you are also a trained musical artist and you have worked as an artist for many years (e.g. you have been the opening act for Michael Jackson, released an album in Japan, and toured both in Sweden and abroad), do you use that experience in your writing in any way, and if so, how?

I think I have always had a desire to express myself artistically. Either through music, dance, art, or like now, through writing. I think all my life experiences benefit my writing when it comes to creating characters, environments and dialogues. I get a lot of inspiration from movies and music. For example, I can use some moods in musical pieces when I describe the mood in a scene.

How did your writing career start?

I got the idea for Leona when I had worked as an investigator for a few years. The idea would just not go away. So I decided pretty quickly that I must write it down and figured I would write a novel. I decided to give it an honest try, so I took a leave of absence, sold my condo in Stockholm, all my furniture, and moved abroad for a year to write. I moved to Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean with a nice climate and not too many distractions – a perfect place for writing.

How long did it take to finish the novel and how much of that time was research and how much was writing time?

It took a little over a year before I sent the novel to publishers. Before that I contacted the author Sören Bondeson, who reviewed my manuscript. When you have a job in the same field as what you are writing about, you do not have to do that much research. So I have not spent much time on that. But this was the first manuscript I have written so I have spent a lot of time exploring the craft and finding my own way of writing, etc.

The main character, Leona Lindberg, is very special. Can you please tell us a little about her and how you came up with the character?

Leona was the first character I created. I thought it was liberating to write about a person who has lived her life according to the norm for years, but then decides to break free from society’s expectations and do things on her own terms. But Leona’s pursuit of a life free from obligations comes with a very high price. She carries a lot of personal baggage, which make her choices destructive and problematic for her as well as the people around her.

To write about a person that breaks social rules and cross boundaries that people normally do not is extremely interesting. Especially to write about a woman, mother, and police, that is expected to act in a certain way. What happens when Leona no longer does what is expected of her is what drives the story forward.

Both you and Leona are investigators at the City Police in Stockholm; how have you used your knowledge and experiences in your writing and how much of yourself is in Leona?

My experiences and knowledge about police work, the investigative process and the justice system is a big advantage and I use it a lot in my writing. I have worked with countless investigations and many different types of crime. Everything from simpler crimes, like thefts to aggravated assault, robberies, rapes, murders, etc. I have interrogated countless plaintiffs, witnesses and suspects and collected all the necessary evidence that is needed. I have used my knowledge since my first novel is about a bank robbery investigation.

There are some similarities between me and Leona, but mainly differences. Just like me Leona is a woman investing crime at the City Police. Leona also wants to get away from her predictable everyday life and questions why she should live according to the norm. I recognize myself in that way of thinking. However, Leona does not hesitate to break rules to get where she wants and she has a pretty dark past and events in her childhood often makes her act without emotion. She does not act the way that is expected of a woman, police, and mother. Her whole life Leona has acted the way people have expected, and she has showed a façade that she can no longer maintain. What happens is that she breaks free—with a vengeance.

What advice do you have for our readers who are aspiring authors?

The most important thing is to decide that you will finish the manuscript. Many people start but never finish. For me it helped a lot to plan the entire novel and write a synopsis before I started writing. Then you have a foundation that you can return to if you get stuck. You also know in which direction you are heading, even though that can obviously change during the writing process. My last piece of advice is that when you have finished the manuscript, let someone review it and give positive and negative feedback. Then you can decide if you want to rework and improve it before you send it to publishers.

Do you have any writing role models? If so, who? And why?

I do not have any specific authors, but I get a lot of inspiration from movies, music, news, people around me, everyday events and my job.

Are you working on a new project? And if so, can you please tell us a little about it?

Right now I am working on the second novel in the series about Leona. The series will be published in seven other countries, so the next few years I will work on the continuation of the series.

Anything else you want to share with our readers?

That they can follow me on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jenny.rogneby

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck with your current project!

 

Note: This interview has been translated from Swedish.