Helene Tursten’s The Torso
Karin Fossum’s When the Devil Holds the Candle
Jo Nesbo’s The Devil’s Star
This month I read several interesting Scandinavian mysteries. Tursten writes a procedural series with a female lead, Detective Inspector Huss. She’s involved in a gruesome series of killings, apparently committed by someone with a taste for dissection. The investigation crosses borders, over to Denmark where the coffee’s terrible and the sexual mores are shocking to this cop who is disturbed by the way the sex industry demeans women. Tursten somehow balances work-day procedural characteristics and family life with what could be a lurid thriller but instead does what Scandinavian fiction does best: develops characters within a social construct. Fossum takes a more subtle and twisted psychological approach, when two adolescents who engage in petty crime for kicks get in over their heads, fatally injuring an infant in the course of a purse-snatching and falling afoul of a distsurbed woman. Jo Nebso is the greatest suprise of the lot. The plot, concerning a serial killer who is drawing a devil’s star around the city of Oslo, is a little over the top, but the writing is terrific and the characters wonderfully three-dimensional. Kudos to the translators and to US and UK publishers who have enough faith in readers to bring this fascinating work to our shores. Another Scandinavian to watch is Arnaldur Indridason, who I profiled not long ago for Shots.