The Edgar award winning short story “The Grownup” by Gillian Flynn originally appeared as “What Do You Do?” in George R. R. Martin’s “Rogues” anthology in 2014, and it was recently published as a standalone.
The narrator (whose name we never learn) is a woman just over 30, who loves books, particularly horror stories. As a child she and her lazy mom begged for cash and now she is administering hand jobs in the back of a fortuneteller’s office with the clever name Spiritual Palms, but because of an injured wrist she moves into the front office and starts working as a medium instead.
There she meets the client Susan Burke, a rich, disheveled woman who believes her Victorian house is haunted. The narrator offers to cleanse the aura of the house to make some easy money. However, she quickly realizes something is very wrong, but is the house or family to blame? As expected in anything written by Flynn things are not as they first seem and the story takes many twisted turns.
Creepy, Twisted and Dysfunctional
If you have read any of Gillian Flynn’s novels: Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, or Dark Places, you know that she is a master of creating creepy and twisted plots with dysfunctional characters. This eerie short story is no different. It leaves you wanting more and I feel the story could have been fleshed out to a novel and I also think it is movie-adaptation worthy. If you liked Flynn’s novels you won’t be disappointed!
The Director is the moviemaker Angelika Braun’s debut in the crime fiction world. There has been a lot of hype about this novel, and there are already plans for a movie.
The novel was presented as a fast paced and film-like whodunit. It is definitely fast paced and film-like, but I do not see the whodunit connection. This is a thriller with a classic serial killer. Someone is murdering men in Stockholm in spectacular ways. The main characters are Signe, a director who is trying to succeed in the cutthroat movie business, and Björn, a behavioral scientist and teacher who is working on his temper.
Film, Yes! Novel…Not So Sure
I have no problem seeing this story as a movie. The characters are definitely interesting, but I am not sold on the story as a novel. After all, there is a difference in how you write scripts and novels and you can tell.
Anders de la Motte became known thanks to the Geim-trilogy, which was innovative, fresh, and fast paced. Then MemoRandom came, which was the first part in a new series that is much more hardboiled. UltiMatum is #2 and there will probably a third novel as well.
It really annoys me when publishers advertise novels as independent when they are not. You could of course read this novel separately, but you would probably be confused. The novels definitely belong together! In other words, read MemoRandom first and things will make more sense.
Power Struggles, Betrayal and Business
That’s what it’s all about. What are people prepared to do to get power? There are pacts that are created and renegotiated and sometimes broken due to betrayal. And in the criminal world it comes right down to business. Win or lose, if you show any sign of weakness you’re out. Police, politician or gangster, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is playing the game and who is on what side is negotiable.
Comeback of Women
I complained that women only played a small role in MemoRandom, especially compared to the Geim-trilogy. Here it’s better again. Both the character Natalie and the police Julia get more room, although Julia’s cleverness and “I’m the best in the class” syndrome annoy me. Another wish was granted as well. The gangster with the big heart, Atif, plays a bigger role in this novel.
With the Geim-trilogy and the two latest novels Anders de la Motte shows that he is a Swedish crime writing force to be reckoned with. It took a few chapters to get into the story and refresh the memory from the last novel; there are many things to keep straight. But then I got the great and at the same time sad feeling you get when a book is really good; you want more but then you realize that it may be a year or more until the next novel is published…
It will be extremely interesting to see how he’ll tie it all together with a third novel (a trilogy is sufficient, no never-ending series please). Then I want to know what’s next. More hardboiled ficton? Something innovative again, or something in a different crime genre? Bring it on!
I read about the bidding for the international rights for this novel and became curious. The novel had barely been published in Sweden and there was already so much interest abroad. What’s so special about it? I had to see for myself, so I downloaded the novel and started reading.
The publisher summarizes the novel like this: “On an idyllic late summer evening Greta, Alex and four-year old Smilla take a boat from the holiday cottage by mythical lake Maran and steer toward the small island in its centre. Greta remains behind in the boat whilst the other two go ashore to explore. Hours pass, but Alex and Smilla don’t return. Confused, Greta makes her way ashore, certain she’ll find them caught up in some game. Calling out and searching the island, she can find no trace of the two. They’ve simply vanished. No trace left behind. The mysterious disappearance, and the feverish search that follows, lead Greta step-by-step down into an abyss of confusion and increasing darkness…”
If you were to summarize the novel with one word it would be – unpredictable. You never know what is real, dream, imagination or fantasy. I get vibes from both Gone Girl and Night Film. Greta’s standard phrase “it escapes me” describes the reading experience perfectly. You think you know what’s going on but since the storyteller never tells the whole truth it is difficult to know for sure. The novel is a very original novel that keeps surprising you.
I have to admit that during the first half of the novel I almost gave up. It was not my style at all. But since it’s a short book, only 209 pages (on my tablet) I decided not to give up. I’m happy I didn’t, because nothing is what it first seems like and when the novel is finished I was exhausted from all its twists and turns, but also happy I finished it. Because otherwise I would have missed the reading experience that Caroline Eriksson gave us, and it turns out that the novel was actually the perfect length.
Adam Sarafis is the pseudonym for Swedish author Linda Olsson, who lives in New Zealand and the New Zealand born author Thomas Sainsbury. Something is Rotten is the first part in a planned trilogy.
A young man is found dead at a library in Auckland. The police think it was a suicide, but a friend of the man is convinced it was murder and asks Sam Hallsberg, former government advisor on terrorism now working as car mechanic, for help. Meanwhile, Lynette Church, one of the country’s best journalists, embarks on an investigation into the past of one of New Zealand’s most powerful businessmen.
Suspense = Main Priority
This is a pure thriller. Innocent people stumble on a mystery/conspiracy, get into trouble and then they are chased while they search for the truth. New Zealand is a whole new crime fiction setting for me, so that felt new and exciting, which made up for some clichés and the fact that this is not the first ragged/traumatized man we have seen as the main character. But when the plot got underway it mattered less. I kept turning the pages to find out what would happen to the characters and that is after all the main purpose of a thriller. The result is an ok thriller with plenty of questions and threads to follow up on in part two and three of the trilogy.
Libby Day’s mother and two sisters were brutally murdered on their Kansas farm when she was only seven years old. She testified that her brother Ben, fifteen at the time, was the killer and he has been in prison ever since. But was he the real killer?
The Kill Club
Almost thirty years later Libby Day (Charlize Theron) needs money and meets with “The Kill Club,” who believes her brother is innocent. They will pay her if she agrees to help them investigate the case (even though she testified her brother was the killer and he has never tried to appeal the verdict). It does not take long before she learns that her past may not be what it seems.
The film (released in 2015) based on the novel Dark Places by Gillian Flynn received mixed reviews and was not a blockbuster like the adaptation of her bestseller Gone Girl. However, I like the movie, mainly because I like the story. I am intrigued by the female characters in all of Flynn’s novels and how we are constantly reminded that both girls and women can be bad. (There are plenty of bad boys and men too.)
However, I see how some people can have issues with Charlize being cast as Libby Day. Flynn said in an interview with People that “Charlize was kind enough to apologize to me that she didn’t look enough like the character in the book” but Flynn also said “I was like, ‘You know what? I think we’re going to be just fine.'” I agree and, and if you had not read the novel you would not have even thought about it.
William Wisting is an experienced investigator. 17 years ago he led the investigation of a widely publicized murder case where a young woman was abducted and killed. Now new information has surfaced claiming that evidence was planted and the wrong man convicted. The man convicted of the crime is released from prison. Wisting is suspended and to discover what really happened he gets help from his daughter Line, who works as a criminal reported. Then the unthinkable happens, another young woman disappears.
Jørn Lier Horst has worked as an investigator at the Norwegian Police and he was suspected of having planted evidence. After that he wrote The Hunting Dogs, and excellent and critically acclaimed crime novel. It has won several prizes, e.g. The Glass Key (top Nordic novel 2013) and The Golden Revolver (top Norwegian crime novel 2012).
The Hunting Dogs is the eighth novel in the series about William Wisting, but only the second one translated to English. Why haven’t more of them been translated? This one was so good!
Considering the author’s own experiences it is hardly a surprise that the story seems believable, but it also keeps you guessing until the very end. My dad also liked the novel and appreciated that it did not contain “as much family drama.”
Stefan Ahnhem is an established Swedish screenwriter for TV and film (e.g. he has worked on scripts for the Wallander series). Ahnhem has now taken the step into the book world and he does it magnificently.
Criminal investigator Fabian Risk and his family move back to his hometown Helsingborg in southern Sweden and he is quickly asked to investigate a brutal murder. At the crime scene they find an old class photo, where the victim’s face has been crossed out. The victim is Fabian’s old classmate and the photo is from their class, which raises the stakes even more since someone seems to be out to get more people on the photo.
Victim Without a Face is the first book in the Fabian Risk series. If you like it, the prequel The Ninth Grave was recently published. I have not read it yet, but it is waiting impatiently in my to-read book pile.
Crimetime Specsavers Award
The novel recently won the Crimetime Specsavers Award 2015.
“A sharp and adrenaline packed thriller! For 600 pages the reader is being held in an almost uncanny grip by this crime novel that doesn’t shy away from the sensational. The author, with a background of 20 years as a script writer, is an excellent storyteller and has all the qualifications needed to be the next great Swedish thriller king.” (Crimetime Specsavers Award Jury)
I don’t think anyone have missed that David Lagercrantz got to write the continuation of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series and everyone surely have their own opinion on this. “It’s commercial rubbish”, “can it be as good as the others”, etc. I think David Lagercrantz is a brave man, because since I got anxiety just from writing a review of the novel it must have been a million times worse to make the decision to actually write the novel. I’m sure money played a certain role, but still. Imagine the expectations and demands that came with this assignment. It could not have been easy…
The Fourth Millennium Novel
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the name of the novel, but I’m sure most people simply think of it as “the fourth Millennium novel.” As I understand it, the publisher and Lagercrantz agreed that he should use the same characters and settings, but he got free reigns when it came to the story. I think that was a wise decision.
I had lowered my expectations, and I think the story is ok. It’s a bit of big brother is watching, some programming and a savant. It’s ok but I am not “wowed” and I get a feeling that there are already similar books out there. But…he has inherited the characters and that makes all the difference. Stieg Larsson’s characters led by Salander are phenomenal and that elevates the story.
The most exciting thing in this novel is Lisbeth’s sister. Stieg hinted about her in the earlier novels, and it’s undeniably interesting. One good and one evil sister, that paves the way for full-scale war. Some people may not like that all the characters are very “either or” (black or white), but I like it. A bit of comic book feeling is never wrong in my book. Everything does not have to be that realistic all the time.
This Alternative Works
If you liked the three first novels you’ll probably like this one too. Just like with Harry Potter you want more. Stieg Larsson is gone, but this alternative works too. I don’t know if another author would have done a better job or not. What I miss is a certain stylistic sophistication. The first three novels are all thrillers, but the first is also a whodunit, the second a cop story and the third a spy novel. It would have been fun if Lagercrantz would have continued to play with the criminal genres. I suspect he held back in fear of not following Stieg Larsson’s spirit. He is forgiven, but for the next novel (because surely there will be another one?!) I hope he lets loose. After all, the characters are doing most of the heavy lifting.
This is Christoffer Carlsson’s third novel in the series about the labile policeman Leo Junker. The first novel, The Invisible Man from Salem, was awarded Best Crime Novel of the Year in 2013 by the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy. The second installment in the series, The Falling Detective, was published in 2014. If you want to know more about Christoffer Carlsson you can read our interview with him.
Leo’s former mentor Charles Levin is the focus of this novel. He is found murdered in a small village in the countryside, which he moved to after his retirement. Levin was Leo’s friend, but who was he really? Dark secrets slowly appear. The novel shifts between the present and a 1980s colored by its division between east and west. Shifting between past and present we get to follow Levin’s life and actions; actions that have consequences, not only for Levin, but also for Leo and detective Tove Waltersson. Christoffer Carlsson skillfully ties most of the threads together at the end, but leaves the door open for a continuation.
What hits me most with this series is the somber mood. It is not upbeat. Imagine a bit of boredom, bitterness, hopelessness and equal parts of sadness and loneliness. A feeling that the life just flew by, that life does not get better than this is a recurring feeling with many of the characters. Thankfully there is some hope and will to live in Leo Junker despite his difficult past and addiction.
The publisher says that the novels are independent but I do not agree. Sure, you can read the novels separately, especially the second one, but there are a lot of things you will not understand in book three if you have not read the first one. Clearly you will enjoy it more if you read them all in the correct order.
Original title in Swedish: Mästare, väktare, lögnare, vän