Wednesday, July 14, 2010

THE KILLER'S ART: MARI JUNGSTEDT




Egon Wallin is secretly planning to leave his wife Monika. After twenty-five years as an art dealer on Gotland he has exchanged contracts for the sale of Visby's foremost gallery, and is ready to start a new life in Stockholm. His last show will be the work of a young Lithuanian artist, Mattis Kalvalis, still unknown in Sweden.
Later that night after a very successful show and a fancy dinner at the Donners Brunn restaurant in central Visby, Egon Wallin leaves his sleeping wife for a secret rendezvous.
The next morning his body is found hanging from the portcullis of the medieval Dalman Gate.

The Killer's Art is the fourth book in Mari Jungstedt's Inspector Knutas series set on the island of Gotland. The four books have been translated from the Swedish by Tiina Nunnally.
This series is improving as it goes along and the reason is that it relies more on the reader's interest in the characters than the plot, which in this book is rather transparent.
The author deals as sensitively and honestly as possible with a very difficult subject, at the same time as imparting a lot of interesting information about Swedish artists, and their patrons in the early part of the last century.
There are moving descriptions of a painting by the post impressionist Nils von Dardel "The Dying Dandy" which becomes part of the investigation.

{This reminded me that we have a lovely children's book entitled Our Home [1899] with the paintings of a slightly earlier and very different Swedish painter Carl Larsson [mentioned in the book] which we bought in a freezing cold Stockholm many years ago.}

Mari Jungstedt writes in shortish chapters, and changes the perspective frequently and this technique adds to the gathering tension as Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas and his team struggle to work out the relationships between suspects in a situation where everyone seems to have a secret life.

A vital member of the investigative team is the enigmatic, and very private, Detective Inspector Karin Jacobsson, who Knutas rather fancies, even though he is happily married and still in love with his red haired Danish wife, Lina.

She's really sweet, he thought as he observed her hesitation.

The author hints but does not confirm at some future emotional entanglement that will definitely not involve Karin and Anders.
The other interesting team member is Martin Kihlgard, who has been sent from the NCP in Stockholm. He is a large clownish man, constantly eating, and annoying Knutas by calling him "Knutie" and charming everyone with his sense of fun, but beneath this exterior he is a shrewd investigator.

The other major participant in Knutas series, the television reporter Johan Berg, "assists" the police investigate serious crimes on Gotland, while carrying on a passionate and tempestuous affair with Emma Winarve. Emma is now divorced from Olle, and she and Johan have a baby daughter as well as Olle's two older children to look after.
This relationship is one of the most enjoyable sub-plots in the books. I have always thought that Johan is a bit selfish and immature, and even become on occasions quite annoyed at his behaviour. But this is a tribute to the quality of the writing which draws you into the lives of the characters.

Emma responded with a low growl in her throat, and all of a sudden wrapped her legs tightly around him. They made love on the sofa, then leaning against the table, against the windowsill, and finally on the floor. Afterwards, as he lay with her head resting on his arm, he found himself looking up at the underside of the coffee table, which was only a few inches from his sweat-covered forehead.
He smiled as he kissed her cheek.
'I'll take that as a yes.'

The police work in The Killer's Art may be a little slapdash but the characters, the background information, and the setting on the island of Gotland kept my interest.


6 Comments:

Blogger Dorte H said...

A fine and thorough review!

I agree that the police work is her weakest point, whereas setting and characters are usually very good.

2:21 AM  
Blogger Maxine said...

Nice review, Norman. I really liked the historical story about the artists. I often don't enjoy historical stories-within-stories so much (eg Stonecutter, Man from Beijing) as they seem a little oversimplified, but this one is quite moving, I think. I was just glad that the author is back on form after what I thought was a disappointing third novel. I agree, though, that there were some not-so-good aspects, eg the police liaison between Gotland and the mainland did not do anything and if memory serves the plot depended on that (poor communication between the forces). But, cavils - it was a good read.

6:37 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Dorte.
I have to read the next book to find out what happens to Emma and Johan, as well as find out Karin's secrets.

6:40 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Maxine.
Taking your advice I did not read book three. And I agree it was a good read, meaning I will definitely carry on reading this series.

6:45 AM  
Blogger Kerrie said...

Well done on completing the challenge Norman. I can see I must read more Jungstedt too.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Bernadette in Australia said...

I have UNSEEN on my TBR shelves, you remind me why I must start this series. Oh for more time.

4:24 PM  

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