Thursday, August 22, 2013

T is for Helene Tursten

Today, for the Crime Fiction Alphabet, I am featuring Helene Tursten, author of Detective Inspector Huss (first published in Sweden in 1998). This book is the first in a series of ten books (as far as I can tell), only five of which have been translated from Swedish into English. A sixth will be published in the US in early 2014.

As a summary of the book, the copy on the back cover of my edition does very well:
One of the most prominent citizens of Göteborg, Sweden, plunges to his death off an apartment balcony, but what appears to be a “Society Suicide” soon reveals itself to be a carefully plotted murder. Irene Huss finds herself embroiled in a complex and high-stakes investigation. As Huss and her team begin to uncover the victim’s hidden past, they are dragged into Sweden’s seamy underworld of street gangs, struggling immigrants and neo-Nazis in order to catch the killer.
The good news is that I really enjoyed this book. The bad news is that I want to continue the series which will just add to my real or virtual TBR stacks.

Detective Inspector Irene Huss is a strong female character, and I like that. In addition to highlighting sociological issues in Sweden, the book addresses women's roles in male dominated jobs like law enforcement. The supervisor of the group (Detective Superintendent Sven Andersson) is older, not in great health, and doesn't deal well at all with the obvious sexual harassment going on. He doesn't want to face the unpleasant task of confronting the offender. The harrassment does not directly affect Huss, although she is very sensitive to comments on women and age. 

The author has the gift of portraying the characters ... at least the detectives ... as real people with real lives. The details of Huss' day to day life feel authentic but not boring. One of the minor subplots deals with the neo-Nazi movement in Sweden. I found this somewhat shocking, but similar issues were addressed in The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo (set in Norway), so it wasn't that surprising.

We also can feel Irene's dedication to the job.
But she remembered how it had been the first few years. The excitement, the aroused hunting instincts, and the feeling of triumph when the case was solved. Of course she still had these feelings, but noticeably attenuated. Far too many cases had not left behind the sweetness of victory, but rather a bitter aftertaste. You become jaded and cynical in this profession, she thought in her darker moments. But she didn't want to become either jaded or cynical! You had to go on, keep moving forward. You couldn't stop and dig yourself a hole. The job she had chosen was not without its dangers, but she had never wanted to do anything else and had always enjoyed her work. The past few years she had begun to notice an insidious feeling that hadn't existed before. Only recently had she been able to identify it. Terror. Terror of people's indifference to the human values of others and terror of the ever-increasing violence.
The book is somewhat long (but under 400 pages) and deals with a very complicated series of crimes; regardless, it kept me interested the whole time I was reading it.

For more information on this book, see the following links. Some of these articles tell more information than I like to know before I read a book, but they are full of interesting comments.

An article at January Magazine.
At The World of Books.
At Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...
At Reactions to Reading. This one has links to even more reviews.

The Crime Fiction Alphabet is sponsored by Mysteries in Paradise.  Please visit this post to check out other entries for this letter.

20 comments:

  1. TracyK, you've done it again - another great-sounding book from a new author for me - I have about half a dozen books on my TBR all from your say so - I am not complaining however ... Thanks chum, can;t wait to get stuck in!

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    1. Sergio, I hope that I have steered you in the right direction. Of course I have a huge number of books that you have suggested that I want to get to, also.

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  2. Tracy - I couldn't agree more about the quality of this series. I like Irene Huss' character very much, and I especially like the portrayal of teamwork as the unit investigates. That's quite apparent in the other novels, too, all of which I can recommend. An excellent choice for T. And thanks for the kind mention!

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    1. Margot, I am just hoping I can find inexpensive copies at my favorite book sale in September. And then I have to double my reading speed in order to get to all the books I want to read.

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  3. Tracy, glad you enjoyed it and another new, interesting author for me. Probably pass on it though, unless the lottery fairy shines on me tonight and I can retire promptly! You need to start reading some deadly, dull books, so I don't feel I'm missing out!

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    1. Col, your priorities are perfect... retirement, then books. I wonder if I could read twice as many books if I could retire?

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  4. TracyK: I enjoyed the book last year. I think the cover image is very effective at creating the picture I will see in my mind for Detective Inspector Huss.

    I thought some of the scenes, especially with the young man dying of AIDS, very effective.

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    1. Bill, I agree, that image of Irene Huss on the cover is perfect. And the part of the story that dealt with the young man with AIDS was a good illustration of the humanity that Huss retains while doing her job professionally.

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  5. Hey Tracy, great review. I own this title so I can't wait to read it. The reviews seem to be mixed on this writer but knowing that you & a few others enjoyed it makes me look forward to reading it.

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    1. Keishon, I will be interested to see what you think of the book when you read it. It does include a lot of the personal life of the detective, but I like that when it fits in well with the overall plot.

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  6. Like your other commenters, I love this series too. Such a quality read.

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    1. Sarah, I agree. And I look forward to reading more by this author.

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  7. I like the Irene Huss character, a regular person who is a police detective with a family life, and deals with the problems that teenagers bring to the table, while dealing with awful crimes in Sweden.

    In addition to the books, MHZ Networks carries TV episodes and also sells them for anyone so inclined. I've watched a few of the Irene Huss shows and liked them.

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    1. Kathy, I do like the fact that Irene is presented as a normal person with family issues in this book. The TV show sounds good but I think I want to get a few more novels in the series read before I try those.

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  8. I really liked this book too, but I'm a bit ashamed I haven't continued with the series in the last year. Maybe my next batch of reading goals should include one about catching up with favorite series.

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    1. Rebecca, I have the same problem, I have many many series that I get stuck after the first or second book. Finishing some series was supposed to be a goal this year, and now it is moving into next year.

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  9. Tracy, good choice again. I'm with Bill about the effectiveness of the cover which alone might have ensured good sales for its author, another new one for me too.

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    1. Thanks, Prashant. This is a book I put off reading for a good while, now I wish I had read it sooner.

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  10. I've read four of the books in the series, and thought them very good. I like the fact that she has a normal home life, unlike so many detectives.

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    1. Nan, that is a great aspect of the series, I agree. I just bought the 2nd book in the series, planning to read it in 2014.

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