Wednesday, December 23, 2009


A dinner party on the Swedish island of Gotland goes drastically wrong when Helena Hillerstrom's jealous boyfriend Per objected to her dancing with handsome single man Kristian. Per smacks Helena who scratches him, and then Per punches Kristian. The party is definitely over.
The next morning Helena goes for a walk on the beach with her dog, and both her and the dog are later found hacked to death.
Inspector Anders Knutas, a solid family man, will lead the police team, while Johan Berg a TV journalist will carry out his own independent investigation. When Frida, a second attractive woman is brutally murdered in a similar fashion, the people of Gotland begin to panic and worry as to their safety and to the reduced holiday trade. There are some people on the island with secrets to hide.

Unseen is a solid police procedural with Inspector Anders Knutas, who is happily married with twins Nils and Petra, leading an investigative team much in the manner of Sjowall and Wahloo's Martin Beck, and Henning Mankel's Wallander. We learn a lot about Gotland and its traditions, as well as the importance to the Swedes of Midsummer, not surprising in a country with such long winter nights. There are some fine descriptions of the geography of the island, and the smartly designed and furnished houses of the prosperous young people.

The most interesting of the police team are Karin Jacobsson, who Knutas is perhaps a little in love with, despite his happy home life, and Martin Kihkgard, a prolific eater, who one suspects was sent from Stockholm to provide some light relief to the dark tale.
The clever variation in the normal police procedural theme is the additional presence of TV journalist Johan Berg conducting his own enquiries, and also creating personal turmoil in the mind of Helena's best friend Emma.
Emma is beautiful, distressed by the loss of her childhood friend, and incidentally has a husband Olle and two young children, but this does not stop the selfish Johan from pursuing her.
The antics and cogitations of this couple play a large part in the novel. I suppose this is what is called 'femikrimi', and I have to admit it fitted into the story well without slowing the plot narrative in any way.
But I did not like the character of Johan at all, and it is a compliment to the author and the brilliant translator Tiina Nunnally that he inspired such antipathy.
The technique of interspersing passages of the serial killer's past and his thoughts worked well and eventually gave us a clue to the murderer's motives.
I thought the police were a bit slow on the uptake, but that too was credible in a holiday resort where very little serious crime occurred.
I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more about Mari Jungstedt's characters. I think I might shout 'Don't do it Emma' as I read.


Blogger Dorte H said...

"I thought the police were a bit slow on the uptake" - I like that one :D

I thought Jungstedt´s debut was cosy enough, but more ´femi´ than ´krimi´ really, because it took so long time before the police got anywhere. I am reading her second right now, and it seems to focus more on proper police work.

11:02 AM  

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