Saturday, July 26, 2008


When Richard von Knecht falls from the fifth floor balcony of his luxurious apartment his wife Sylvia and son Henrik are unfortunately on the pavement below.

'Aristocratic family, and wealthy. Talented businessman, stock market speculator, and one of Goteborg's biggest celebrities.'

Of course it turns out that Richard was pushed and Detective Superintendent Sven Andersson and his varied team begin a thorough investigation. Detective Inspector Irene Huss mother of teenage twins, wife, judo and handball expert is the main protagonist and most of the interest in this excellent police procedural is in how Irene reacts to the various problems around her. 

There are contrasts between Goteborg's beautiful people who have Carl Larsen paintings in the stairwell of their apartment block and a Haupt bureau in the library, and hard working cops like Irene Huss who have IKEA furniture in their more modest accommodations.

The investigation digs up unpleasant details about the wealthy von Knecht family and when Richard's office is blown up it is obvious that there is more to this than a family quarrel.
As the investigation proceeds Jenny Irene's daughter shaves her head and flirts with neo- Nazism; Detective Birgitta Moberg faces the problem of sexual harassment; Detective Tommy Persson tells a particularly moving story, and Superintendent Andersson makes inappropriate comments to the reticent and enigmatic Finnish detective Hannu Rauhala. 
Sweden's social democratic utopia has become even more flawed than in the Sjowall and Wahloo era.

Helene Tursten  just gives the reader the story of  a police investigation with its teamwork, disappointments, stresses and antagonisms as the detectives work their way systematically to a solution of the crimes. 

"Keep in touch with pathology and contact me as soon as the forensic odontologists are done with their examination."
He looked round and his gaze fell upon Hans Borg, who true to habit was sitting dozing in his chair. 

This book is a very enjoyable read and certainly an encouragement to read more about Irene Huss and her family.


Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I always like to ask readers of Detective Inspector Huss they think of Tursten's integration of Irene Huss' professional and family lives in the book. I don't think she managed to blend the two as well in this book as she did in the one later Huss book I've read, The Glass Devil.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

7:01 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I can't really comment until I have read the other books, but what did strike me was that Krister, Irene's husband, is such a peripheral and pale character in this book. Irene on the other hand is such a dominant character that the contrast is stark.
There are few other police detectives in crime fiction with happy family lives. I can only think of one other at the moment, Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti, and of course his partner Paola comes over as a strong person in her own right.

1:35 AM  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

One of the many things that so struck me about Detective Inspector Huss -- given that this is a first novel, it's remarkably full-blown in all respects -- is Huss' family life. We could have had the triteness of Irene coming home thoroughly stressed out and irremediably distempered by her job to a husband thoroughly fed up with an absent wife who neglects the home, etc., etc. But no, none of this, and Krister is a househusband working part-time while the children are growing up (he returns to full-time work later in the book), could hardly be a more solicitous husband and, a chef, delights in preparing Irene tasty and nutritious nosebags. I thought his character came across rather well -- he may be peripheral, but then again, I don't want Huss' domestic life taking up half the book. If the twins were both portrayed as angels, this might start to seem a bit much, but not so, of course, with one in danger of succumbing to skinhead racism. It's a nice balance, with harmony, disharmony, and, once the twin gets a little education and attitude adjustment, harmony restored. And the same balance is evident in Tursten's portrayal of the police team and their interactions. Andersson is portrayed as having some difficulty working with women, but he actually gets on very well with Irene, and it much struck me that the two women who actually do trouble Andersson, the prosecutor and the forensic examiner, are less than congenial colleagues, the latter being singularly unpleasant to all and sundry. Andersson may have a bit of a problem, but Jonny is the thoroughly nasty and very sexist member of the team, and his main target is Brigitte, not Irene. So again, there's an avoidance of the trite and there are balances. There is some subtlety here, and the avoidance of the trite I found refreshing. All of this, of course, is part what makes the publisher's dubbing of the books as 'Sweden's Prime Suspect' so mindless.

4:47 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Philip, I agree it is that subtlety that makes the detection team that little bit different and draws you in to the world the author has created.

7:16 AM  

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