Sunday, May 23, 2010

Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten

27. Detective Inspector Huss (Swedish title, Krossade tanghästen) - first in the Inspector Huss series
by Helene Tursten
translated by Steven T. Murray
mystery, 1998; English translation 2003
finished, 5/17/10

Well, here I go again! Another Swedish crime fiction author!

Reading this book felt a bit like being on a real case - slow moving, many details, thoughtful, dead ends, useful and useless information. I've read police procedurals aplenty but not one has ever made me feel a part of the procedure as this book has. The reader sees the police department working as a team. They get assignments, and then come back and have a group meeting which they call, 'morning prayers,' and try to make sense of all the information obtained. This is the 1990s, and sexism is still a palpable thing on the force. One policeman is quite aggressively awful, but even a kinder man has a hard time getting rid of old prejudices.

Detective Inspector Irene Huss is the one we follow along in her daily work in Göteborg. She is approaching forty with a bit of trepidation. She is a judo champion. She has twin thirteen-year old daughters. There is a family dog. And she is very happily married, a state I've seen infrequently in this sort of book. The reader learns how very difficult it is to balance family life with work when Irene comes home after a very stressful day dealing with unsavory types. One of her daughters joins a skinhead band, and tells her mother the Holocaust never happened, which as you may imagine causes much fear and anxiety in her parents. The problem is solved in a unique and meaningful way.

The crime in this book is the murder of a very rich man. Slowly, we meet his family and his friends. We learn of his past, and the pasts of the other characters in the book. The police must make some connections in order to solve this case. Early in the book the police go into his home.
Irene gazed up in wonder at the walls of the stairwell. The frescoes were amazing, with children romping among wood anemones and an allegorical figure of Springtime, flying in a cart drawn by huge exotic butterflies. It was all done in light, elegant, springlike pastels. On the opposite wall was a full Midsummer Eve celebration done in considerably richer and more intense tones. Grown-ups and children danced in the summer twilight, and the fiddler sawed away at his instrument for dear life. His face was shiny with sweat; his eyes glistened with the joy of making music.

"Carl Larsson did the paintings, in the early eighteen nineties."

Can you imagine! I've long loved Larsson's paintings of his home and family. This one is called Spring.

The book shows us how very difficult it must be to live a regular life when one's work life is so often full of the very worst of humanity; terrible crimes, terrible people. Once an investigation begins, the police have no idea what they will uncover, but they know it won't be pleasant. Their own lives and emotional well-being are on the line every day. We all know this, but Detective Inspector Huss brings home that truth to the reader. I won't go into more detail, because I know that I like to discover a story rather than know what it's all about beforehand. I'll just say that I found myself absorbed and fascinated. The book, the way the case is explored, and getting to know Irene and her co-workers held me in thrall. I've just received the next two books in the series from the wonderful Book Depository, and have already begun the next one called The Torso.

If you, too, are finding yourself simply wild about Scandinavian and Icelandic crime fiction, here are some sites you will enjoy. Euro Crime, which isn't limited to just Scandinavia and Iceland; Scandinavian Books (scroll over to the right if you don't have a big computer screen), and their blog, Nordic Bookblog; and Scandinavian Crime Fiction.


  1. Very nice review, Nan. I have this book here, among other Scandinavian authors. I look forward to reading it.

  2. me too, Nan ... lots of Swedish crime novels recently, so I'm very happy to find the links to more that you provided ... thanks

    Just finished the Millenium Trilogy by Steig Larsson (saw the movie as well), and now reading Sun Storm by Asa Larsson ... takes place in Kiruna, the furthest north city in Sweden ... it shows on the map you've given us

    Henning Mankell's newest novel is waiting for me at the library - Man from Beijing - reviews I read were not so great.

  3. I'll recommend this to my reading group. We've read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and found it wholly absorbing and I know some of the members are keen to read more Scandinavian fiction.

  4. This truly sounds like the kind of book I want to read! I am almost at the end of a series of books set in an English village, and usually, when something I really enjoy comes to an end, it takes me a while to adjust to it and find something new that really captures my attention. This book might just be what I need, so, thank you for posting about it here!

  5. I was just getting ready to pick up a novel by fellow Swede, Camilla Lackberg, but decided I needed a little Agatha Christie instead. I have this one on my pile as well and look forward to reading it. The detective does sound very normal, doesn't she? A nice change of pace. And I've been following Euro Crime for some time, but will have to check out those other links now.

  6. I liked this book too. First off, it takes quite a while, as I recall, to solve the crime, and in the meantime, there are a lot of interesting people to meet. I really liked the heroine and her husband and co-workers and the kind of down-to-earth tone of the book.

  7. Just ordered it from Amazon! I'm sure to like it as much as you. I've taken your recommendations on several other books, and agreed with you so far.

  8. Thank you for this post and the links to all things in Scandanvian books, which I adore.

  9. Nan,
    First of all, I just love Carl Larsson! He is one of my favourite artists, and Canadian artist Trisha Romance was inspired by him when she first went into art. She also studied in Scandanavia!
    Awhile back I read a YA book entitled:
    A faraway Island by Annika Thor and really enjoyed the descriptions of the land.
    My daughter is at present reading:
    The girl with the dragon tattoo
    by Stieg Larsson. She plans to read all of his books, which also happen to be some of the most popular at the moment at our library.
    Thank you for your ever interesting post!
    Love arm chair travels!

  10. Oh, how lovely, I must look out for this author. We're planning a trip to Sweden (which I love) in the summer (just back from a week in France so we're gadding about this year!) and part of the plan is to go to the Carl Larssen house, as I too love his work.

  11. Thank you, Kay! I'm pretty sure this is your cup of tea! And The Torso is riveting, too.

    Janice, Is there something in the air? :<) I'm so very infrequently reading what everyone else is that I find myself amazed to be part of this reading experience that seems to be going on worldwide. I am just so interested in what they all have to say, the cases, the detectives, the settings, oh, just all so wonderful! I haven't read S. Larsson. I started the first book and just wasn't interested. I don't own Asa Larsson yet but plan to. I have more of the Icelandic series by Indridason waiting for me, and one by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, also from Iceland. And one by the Swedish author, Theorin. And I still have many Mankells on the shelf. I haven't searched for Danish or Finnish writers yet, but will. So exciting!

    Vintage Reading, it's funny but I just couldn't get into the Steig Larsson first book. But I've loved the other authors I've read so far.

    Librarian, which series is this you are just finishing? Agatha Raisin??

    Danielle, Camilla L. is also on my radar to buy soon. What an abundance of literature! I've not read any Agatha for a while, and I miss her.

    Linda, that is exactly the way I felt. And yes, it did take the entire book to solve it. It just felt so real to me. These people work really hard to solve a crime.

    Carol, I hope you do! I'll be interested to hear what you think.

    Jennifer, you're welcome. I've found the links to be just fantastic - such good resources.

    Joanne, can you imagine seeing his work in hallways of buildings?! I was amazed. Everyone seems to love the Steig L. books but me. I had been warned about a very graphic scene, but honestly I ended up quitting well before it, just because I didn't like the people or the writing. I'll look into the ya book you mentioned. I've just bought Troll Fell by Katherine Langrish which is set in Norway. Not sure if it is children's or ya, but it looks very interesting.

    Oh, Nicola, how I envy you! I've wanted to visit his house for so long. I'll probably never get there so maybe you can write and tell me about your adventures!

  12. Nan, you were asking which series of books set in an English village I am about to finish. It is not Agatha Raisin - sadly, I have read each and every one of those already. It is the "Village" series written by Rebecca Shaw. Quite old-fashioned, but I find it most relaxing, and sometimes that is just what I want from a book :-)

  13. Looks like an iteresting read. If you love books stop by my blog at the end of the week. Good luck on the biscuts and I hope you like them. Clarice

  14. Librarian, I remember you mentioning her, and I actually picked up A Country Affair at the library but had to take it back unread as I was reading something else at the time. But it is definitely in my head, and I will get to it sometime, hopefully soon! I'd like to read both this series and the Village one. In case you haven't seen it, she has a webpage -

    Clarice, the biscuits are the BEST!

  15. Isn't it strange that we've all turned to Scandinavian crime. One would have thought that on the whole there's probably less crime there than elsewhere in the world! Yes, I loved Larsson, and Kenneth Branagh is brilliant as Wallender on TV, wonderfully gloomy.
    Love your top photo.

  16. Great review, Nan! Just came over from your link on Diane's blog... thanks for including it in your comment. I'm currently reading the author's An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good and have just met Inspector Huss. Think I'll see if I can find this book.

    1. I have that one on my library holds list for the Kindle. My little state downloadable books has 6 of the Inspector Huss books, so I would guess your bigger state(s) would have them.

  17. Nan, so happy that you left me the link to your superb review. Glad it worked better for you. I loved the time the author obviously put into this one and how it played out, I just found the flow and translation off-putting. I loved that you included this artist I was unfamiliar with until now. I looked him up and LOVE much of what I see. I may now buy myself a print for framing. I do love art work and own several by Greg Singley, here's one I have over sofa in family room:

    I also own a few of his featuring irises and those were my moms favorite flowers.

    1. Very nice picture with the beach and flowers. Thank you for telling me. And those irises. I wouldn't mind a border like that! We did move some iris in the fall into the patio garden so I'm hoping...


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