Archive for the ‘Sweden’ Category

For those of you who are fans of the Swedish TV movies in the Irene Huss series (very few of you, I’m sure, but you should be), if you’ve watched Episode 7, you’ve seen a scaled down and revised version of Who Watcheth. On TV it was called Anyone Who Watches in the Dark. Published in Sweden in 2010,  the book is only making its way to America in 2016.


Two bodies have been discovered, the victims strangled with a commonly used cord, washed clean with some sort of detergent and wrapped in plastic. Forensics have found cat hairs on the tape around the plastic and some oil coating on the plastic as well. Initially, there seems to be no connection between the two victims other than the fact they are female and are in their mid-forties.

A search also uncovers a survivor of a similar attack who is able to describe the form of attack as well as some characteristics of the attacker-strong, smelly. Certain occurrences are common to the two murders as well.

Huss, Jonny Bloom, Fredrik et al of the Goteborg Police have their hands full.

A side story concerns acts of vandalism and violence against Huss and her family. Considering Huss has her hands full investigating the strangulations, she’s ill prepared for handling her own issues. This side story is given short shrift in the televised version of the story.

The ending of the story is actually one of my favorites and I’ll tell you I happen to like the TV ending better. Although they are very similar, they are not exactly the same.




Read Full Post »

I’m beginning to get into Nordic mysteries so when I saw Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten (“first in the bestselling Swedish mystery series”) at Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, NY, I had to do my civic independent bookstore duty and buy the book. It’s always best to start a series at the beginning, no?


Prominent Goteborg, Sweden businessman Richard von Knecht plunges to his death right in front of his wife and son who were exiting their car. Initially, the fall was considered a “Society Suicide” but no one could fathom why the ever lively, fun loving von Knecht would jump. When medical examiner Yvonne Stridner concludes that it is homicide, not suicide, the Violent Crimes team, composed of Detective Superintendent Swen Andersson, Detective Inspector Irene Huss and a battery of policemen and women, are soon involved. Of course, initially, no motive for murder seems plausible, but as the team digs, things are not what they seemed.

My only Nordic mystery reading experience consists of the dark, brooding mysteries of Arnaldur Indridason’s Inspector Erlendur mysteries, which I love. My viewing experience consists of the excellent The Bron (The Bridge) which is also dark and both the British and Swedish versions of Wallander (of which the former is dark and the latter, not so much). Therefore, I expected a darker than normal book, which is not really what I got.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Detective Inspector Huss and would definitely read the eight or so books in the series, but it wasn’t as compelling as Inspector Erlendur. Huss is approaching 40 and is feeling the uncertainty that goes along with aging. She’s got twin daughters who are going through their growing pains. All of this complicates an already complicated investigation. The secondary characters are interesting in their own right. In television lingo, it is a good ‘ensemble’ cast, which is good because there is an associated Swedish TV series, starring Angela Kovacs who starred in the initial season of Mankell’s Wallander.

There’s enough swift moving action to keep readers interested. Huss runs into a bunch of unsavory characters including Hell’s Angels and friends of von Knecht (just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you can’t be unsavory).

The only thing I found offputting was the sexism exhibited by some of the police team. The book was written in 1998, so maybe it was merely my 2016 mentality, but it didn’t ring true.

Read Full Post »

The 12 episode series Detective Inspector Irene Huss is based on the novels of the same name authored by Helene Tursten. On a lark, I picked up a copy of the first book in the series when I was at Northshire Books in Saratoga in June and enjoyed it. When I found out about the TV series, my compulsive nature forced me to interloan the first three episodes.

At first I thought the video version was pretty light fare. Episode 2 is a VERY scaled down version of the first book in the series, the cover of which is shown above. But, I’ll tell you, by episode 4 or 5, the stories become pretty gruesome. I never thought about all the many ways serial killers can stalk and murder their victims. Yikes!!!! It is certainly living up to the high standards of its Swedish brethren.

What’s also nice about this series is that I’m meeting some old friends. Angela Kovacs (Irene Huss) was also on the Swedish version of Wallander as Ann-Britt Hoglund. Also, Dag Malmberg (Hans on The Bridge) plays Jonny Blom in Irene Huss. So, while I’m waiting for Series 3 of the Bridge to air or Series 2 of Mankell’s Wallander to arrive from another library, I can watch the last three episodes of Detective Inspector Irene Huss in anticipation of great things to come. (Note, after I wrote this, I started Episode 10 and decided to skip that one. Things are getting too close to the Huss family for my liking.)

T sum up, the Irene Huss TV series and the Irene Huss book series are worth your while. You should be forewarned that nine of the twelve TV episodes are based on the actual books.



Read Full Post »

When a book states “original stories from Sweden’s Greatest Crime Writers” one ( or I) would assume that the stories in the anthology would be mystery stories. But you know what happens when you ‘assume’. So, as you can guess, many of the stories in A Darker Shade of Sweden were far from mysteries, most glaringly a story about brain transplants from Steig Larsson, who apparently preferred science fiction to mystery, regardless of his huge selling Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series.


A Darker Shade of Sweden, indeed, contains stories from some of Sweden’s greatest crime writers including Larsson, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, Henning Mankell and Hakan Nesser, Asa Larsson and Eva Gabrielsson (Larsson’s partner). And it does have some good mysteries such as Katarina Wennstam’s Too Late Shall the Sinner Awaken about someone explaining a murder 25 years after the fact or Veronica von Schenck’s Maitreya about stolen artifacts.

The most notable odd, non-mystery story was clearly Steig Larsson’s Brain Power followed by Stowall and Wahloo’s The Multi-Millionaire about a millionaire father who makes his son rough it for a year before inheriting the fortune.

As a huge fan of Nordic mystery TV (The Bron) and books in Arnaldur Indridason’s Inspector Erlendur series, my expectations of this book were not met. What did I get out of this? Well, an author or two that I might try out, primarily Katarina Wennstam and Veronica von Schenck. Other than that, not much. Is A Darker Shade of Sweden going to stay in my library? Probably not.


Read Full Post »

I have become addicted to The Bridge, a Danish / Swedish TV mystery series. The premise: A killer somehow manages to turn off the lights on a bridge connecting Denmark and Sweden. He lays a dead body down on the borderline between the two countries so that one half is in Denmark and one half in Sweden. Now the two countries must collaborate on the investigation.TheBridge

Sofia Helin portrays Saga Noren of the Malmo Police Department, who is on the autism spectrum somewhere. She is unable to read social signs and is focused on solving the case.

Kim Bodnia portrays Martin Rohda, a philandering, somewhat unethical detective from Copenhagen, who at times acts first and thinks later.

Helin and Bodnia portray these flawed characters perfectly. With an excellent supporting cast, The Bridge (Bron) is Nordic mystery at its best.

There are tBron hree seasons, beginning in 2011 and ending in 2015. In 2014, The Bridge won two Golden Nymph Awards for Best European Drama Series, and Best Actor in a Drama Series for Bodnia.

I’ll warn you ahead that the DVD is subtitled but I much prefer it that way so that you enjoy Helin’s dialogue. Her voice reveals so much about her. I’ve finished season one and am anxiously awaiting season 2.

The complete Bron DVD series is the perfect holiday/birthday gift for a mystery lover.



Read Full Post »

The last line of Fredrik Backman’s AManCalledOve Acknowledgements at the end of A Man Called Ove reads, “Rolf Backman. My father. Because I hope I am unlike you in the smallest possible number of ways.” That says it all because that’s how I felt about my dad. And if Ove is even remotely like Rolf, Mr. Backman Sr. is worth emulating.

I’ve always said I’ll morph into a curmudgeon when I get older (and my kids notify me that I’m already there). If I do or if I am, I’ll take being compared to Ove as a compliment (as I do when compared to my father). He’s a quiet man. A man who found the love of his life and throughout 40 years of marriage could not understand by Sonja married him. He believed in few things. There is a right and a wrong. There are rules that must be followed. You can, to some extent, judge a man by the car he drives (absolutely!). And a person should be able to care for himself and his possessions-house, car, etc. If you can’t, you’re most likely an idiot. Ove is the type of man who is lost in today’s world of fast talkers, computers and possessions.

And so it is that when Sonja dies of cancer, Ove is lost. The one thing he valued most in this world is gone as are all the little things they did together. Have breakfast in the morning. Go to the café on Sunday morning where Sonja would have coffee and people watch while Ove would read the newspaper. He misses her curling her finger in the palm of his hand.

While alone and lost in the quiet of his house, he is annoyed when he sees someone backing a trailer in the space between his and the neighboring house, ruining his garden and running over his mailbox. To save what remains of his yard, he ultimately backs the trailer up himself. His new neighbors consist of a hugely pregnant Iranian woman, Parvaneh, her ‘idiot’ husband (he can’t back a trailer into a drive), and their three and seven year old daughters.

Little does Ove know the havoc they are going to wreak on his life, borrowing this,MyGrandmother asking that, barging in to his house uninvited, needing rides here, there and everywhere. It is sure to throw a major monkey wrench into his plans.

Backman’s latest book, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (which I loved), is filled with the kind of quirky characters I love to read about. In A Man Called Ove, Backman has created a character that it is hard not to love. Indeed, Ove is gruff. He’s opinionated. He can harbor a grudge (even after forgetting how it originated). But he loved Sonja more than life itself. He visits her grave every week, changing the flowers, telling her the news, imagining her responses.

I don’t know if Backman has a thing for animals but they pivotal roles in both books.  What can be bad about that, right?

I found the translation of this Swedish book to be somewhat halting in nature. And there were several favorite phrases that kept on appearing. But for some reason it added rather than detracted from the book.

It is rare that I read two books by the same author back to back. And it’s rarer that I like the second one more than the first, but that was the case with A Man Called Ove. I’m even considering making it part of my personal library. That says a lot. If you are in the mood for a truly satisfying read, Fredrick Backman is the author for you. I am awaiting impatiently for his next book. I hope it comes out soon.

Read Full Post »

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Swedish author MyGrandmotherFredrik Backman’s second novel starts out like this. “Every seven-year-old deserves a superhero. That’s just how it is. Anyone who doesn’t agree needs their head examined. That what Elsa’s granny says, at least.” And from this auspicious beginning Backman weaves a touching reality/fantasy story about Elsa and her granny and all the tenants in her apartment building.

You see, Granny is the kind of granny every almost-eight-year-old needs. She’s a non-conformist. She’s a staunch advocate of her granddaughter. She applauds those who are ‘different’, such as Elsa. Elsa has no friends, other than Granny, but they are the closest two friends can be.

Granny spent much of her adult life away. A doctor in a time when few women were doctors, she traveled around the world assisting in disaster areas, leaving Elsa’s Mum in the care of others, primarily Britt-Marie, another tenant in the leasehold Granny lived in. But when Elsa was born, all that changed. Her main focus, her only focus was being a good Granny.

She developed the six kingdoms of the Land-of-Almost-Awake, a fairy tale land that Elsa could go to when she was frightened and couldn’t sleep. She developed a secret language that only Elsa and Granny knew. She told Elsa all of the fairy tales on this land. And together, they could go on adventures. I wish I had that when I was almost eight.

When the book opens, though, Elsa is dealing with two major life changing events. It soon becomes clear that Granny has cancer. Secondly, Elsa’s Mum is expected a baby, Elsa calls Halfie since she doesn’t know the sex yet. She’s afraid of losing Granny and afraid of losing Mum whose attention will be devoted Halfie. This is tough stuff for an almost-eight-year-old, no matter how different or how precocious she is.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is a marvelous story which blends fantasy and reality, as Elsa, the adventurous knight of the Land-Of-Almost-Awake, navigates her world. There are quirky characters (my favorite kind) galore, such as George who seems always to be making eggs, Lennert who is always brewing coffee, Britt-Marie who always picks invisible specks of something off her clothes and Alf, the always cursing taxi driver. But my favorite character is the wurse (find out for yourself who that is).

AManCalledOveI will admit, as I usually do, that I was a tad misty at the end of the book, but Backman neatly wraps everything up in a tidy package which will make you smile. This is the kind of book worth having in your own personal library. I’m off to snare his first book, A Man Called Ove. There seems to be one copy on my library shelf and I want it before anyone else gets it.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is a contender for the best adult book I’ve read this year.

Read Full Post »