Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Unhappy in Uppsala

"Princess of Burundi" - Kjell Eriksson

“Do you know how it is to be poor? It’s living on the margins, but still wanting to enjoy things. We spent everything o Justus. We wanted him to have nice clothes. John bought a computer this fall. Sometimes we bought good food for a special occasion. You can’t feel poor all the time.”

For better or worse, a lot of people read crime novels in order to escape. For the most part I belong of that group, but “Princess of Burundi” mostly made me want to escape “Princess of Burundi”.

There are many great things about the Swedes – smoked salmon, cinnamon buns, midsummer bonfires and IKEA – but boy, when they want to bring you down, they tie a regular anvil to your feet.

It’s coming on Christmas as the body of John Jonsson is found in the snow. He has cigarette burn marks, has been beaten and three fingers are missing. With his wife Berit and teenage son, Justus, John has been living the other side of the Swedish social dream – scraping by on badly paid work, then fired, brother to a well-known small-time crook and big-time drunk– with only a passion for tropical fish keeping afloat.

On the cop side things aren’t looking much better – chronically depressed is the general feel. Ann Lindell which slowly develops into the protagonist of the book is on maternity leave from the department, and obviously with a slight case of baby blues, in her case, probably brought on by the fact that she is a single mom raising the child of a one-night-stand that finished off her long-term relationship (pheww!!).

There’s also a mentally ill loner, which felt a bit repetitive since “Black Seconds” which I recently read, also featured a similar character (okay we get it – society scapegoats the mentally ill / high-school bullying turns people into murderers).

So…yeah I really didn’t feel drawn in and I don’t think I’ll be reading any more Eriksson…even though he seems to be the cat’s whiskers, what with the whole two pages of blurbs and all…

And…I really don’t appreciate it when the guilty party only makes his appearance in the last pages (sorry, if it spoils the book for someone out there, but I had to say it).

But I won’t give up on Swedish crime that easily - I still want to read something by Mari Jungstedt.

Maybe Norwegian crime’s more my thing…we mustn’t lump them together.

For instance, I’ve always heard that Scandinavians were by far the biggest suicides after the Japanese, and it turns out it isn’t true…per se. If you check out this nifty Wikipedia chart, you’ll see the Swedes are about average, while the Norwegians commit suicide almost as much as the Portuguese – it’s those damn Finns hiking up the numbers!
Which reminds me I also want to read Tove Jansson’s True Deceiver.

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