Friday, December 12, 2008

Gory in Gotland

Unseen - Mari Jungstedt

This is a huge spoiler, so don’t go any further if you are considering reading "Unseen".

If you were 32 years-old and had, at age 12, spent some months brutalizing a shy school colleague going so far as to shove his underwear in his mouth while kicking him, would having your best friend (who participated in the attacks) brutally murdered and found with her underwear stuck in her mouth, ring a bell?

Maybe not. Maybe it would take two other bodies and 300 hundred pages more for you to connect the dots. Maybe it sounds to you like it could happen – after all we bury so much of our childhood that we don’t particularly want to remember.

To me it sounded unthinkable and a little impossible, although it did explain why Jungstedt made us follow this female character throughout the book, her struggle with her marriage and adultery with a reporter sent to idyllic island of Gotland to cover the initial brutal murder. Throughout the book I kept thinking “what does this character have to do with anything?”, “why do I have to read about her? and also “why is she such a whiner?”.

I has high expectations for "Unseen", and let me say the first chapter is great. It’s great because it made me care about the victim and want to know more about her, her boyfriend, her life and, of course find out why she was murdered. But "Unseen", strangely, moved completely away from the characters and ambiance it so successfully created in the first pages. It becomes convoluted, pushing and pulling between the chapters focusing in the police inspector, the childhood friend of the first victim (mostly concentrating on her failing marriage) and first person discourse of the (unknown) killer. I felt Inspector Knutas didn’t receive the attention he deserved. There are many characters introduced throughout the book, with a level of detail that made me believe they would be important to the story, instead they are summarily dropped after one appearance – the victim’s boyfriend, the circle of friends, the man who finds the body, the tv station editor and others.

I do appreciate I writer who isn’t afraid to up the body count and press the gore button, but Unseen never captured me, there were too many characters, too little focus or intention in the plot which seemed to flutter around. And the ending…maybe I’m being too harsh, but honestly when I read it I went “what the ?!#$?” and not in a nice way either.

I described the ending to my husband and asked him whether it sounded believable to him. It did not. So there you go – in our house we remember every stinkin’ kid we ever kicked around and left crying, underwear shoved in mouth, and know they’re out to get us.

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