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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 23 February 2011
I love Scandinavian cop books. I came across this book by total accident and began to read it. On the evidence of the portion I had read I ordered the other two books by the author.
The characters are good, solid. The hinterland of the novels owes much to Wahloo and Manning and the stories are interesting. I enjoy the forays into Huss' family life and the interaction of the cops. All good.
However, when I had read a little further, I regretted ordering the other books. Why? Because of the translation. It began really well. Later it became clumsy and contorted. It almost seems that the American translation had been farmed out to various translators and that the final product was a mongrel construct of several people. As such, it suffers badly. Sections flow, others clunk.
The later books show different translators but, having begun the second, find the same erratic nature of language.
It was illuminating to read on the back of my copy the comment from the New York Review of Books,(was it?), to the effect that reading a foreign novel was a mind expanding experience.
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VINE VOICEon 22 February 2011
Although I often enthuse about Scandinavian crime fiction, DETECTIVE INSPECTOR HUSS is an excellent police procedural even by the sky-high standards of authors such as Henning Mankell, Karin Fossum, Arnaldur Indridason and Kjell Eriksson.
Irene Huss is a 40-something police detective, happily married to Krister, a chef, and with twin teenage daughters Kristina and Jenny. The book tells the story of her and her colleagues' investigation into the death of a rich financier, Richard von Knecht, who falls from his balcony window in spectacular fashion as the book opens in the middle of a cold and slushy Swedish winter, while his wife and their adult son are waiting for him in their car below.
Immediately, the strength of the story writing is apparent. In the style of the brilliant "parents" of the genre, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, the book covers in full the details and interpersonal dynamics of the police investigation, as the half dozen or so cops follow up all the leads and meet up every morning over ubiquitous cups of coffee to review progress, decide next steps, and assign tasks for the upcoming day. Gradually, the characters crystallise in the reader's mind: the titular Irene is always juggling home and work duties, though work doesn't have much trouble in winning that particular struggle. She's feisty yet practical and humorous, in many small ways defusing the tensions between other members of the team and keeping them optimistic that a solution to the case will be found, although she is certainly no Pollyanna. She doesn't own a handbag, wears jeans and a padded jacket (with lots of pockets), and doesn't bother about the housework - definitely my kind of woman.
Irene's boss, Sven Andersson, is overweight, balding, divorced, and incomprehending of the dynamics of his team now that women and "outsiders" (a Finnish cop) are included. Yet despite his sexism and old-fashioned attitudes, he's a good boss. Although at the start of the book he has serious trouble relating to the efficient and professional, but female, pathologist, he grows on you. Later on, when some behaviour within the team gets out of hand, he may not understand what's going on but he muddles through to do the right thing, relying heavily on half-remembered training courses and Irene's common-sense rather than on his own intuition. Other cops include the aggressively macho Jonny, independent Brigitta, dependable Tommy and intelligent Hannu, the Finn, silent unless spoken to, but when he does say something, it always counts.
The investigation into the death of Richard involves unravelling his complex family and business relationships over a number of years. This is one of the many fascinating parts of the book, particularly Irene's relationship with and dissection of Sylvia, the dead man's widow. And although two more deaths occur in fairly rapid succession after the first, one has faith that these are not provided to keep the plot going, as is so often the case in crime fiction, but are integral to the central mystery. And so it proves.
Not only is the plot superbly constructed and fast-paced, and the police characters very real, and the book full of wry, humorous observations (often laugh-out-loud), but Helene Tursten writes lyrically about emotion. In particular, two passages of the book: one in which Irene travels to Stockholm to interview an old flame of Richard's; and a subplot involving one of Irene's daughters becoming a skinhead and Tommy telling the girl a story about his own history, are poignant and sad, excellent pieces of writing in their own right irrespective of the rest of the plot.
Reading a book in translation, one is never sure of the relative contributions of author and translator; here, my hat is off to both. The book is quite long, but it delivers on all fronts. It is rare to find so many aspects of good writing in one book. The details of the police procedural don't flag: for a book of this length I was surprised that all the cops are fully occupied throughout turning up leads and interviewing suspects, as well as getting into dangerous situations - which are all the more devastating for the author's refusal to glamourise them. I was also impressed at the clear picture conveyed of Irene, her marriage, and of the other cops, witnesses and other characters. There's lots of humour and perceptive social comment along the way, as well as a strong social message about the importance of history - and let's not forget, a satisfying conclusion to the case. Despite this cornucopia, for me, the highlight is the humanity and poetry that shines through at intervals within this unsentimentally told, straight-up story.
[Some of the remarks by other reviewers about the translation fail to acknowledge that these translations are American. The Inspector Huss series is only published in American translation (Soho Press) not English, sadly. It is not fair, therefore, to criticise the translations on the basis of Americanisms! And only three have been translated at that. What a pity.]
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on 26 May 2014
When financier Richard von Knecht drops dead in the street the first question for the pólice is whether he jumped, fell or was pushed from his third floor balcony. Det Inspector Irene Huss is part of the team to investigate. Published in Sweden in 1998 this is Helene Tursten's first book. It is almost 400 pages long but seems longer because of the slow pace and various asides. As a pólice procedural it is very good but as usual there is too much about Irene's home life with husband Krister and the teenage twin daughters, a few interludes on how to be a good Swede and the usual stereotypes in the pólice forcé - young, sexist male, two decrepit males, almost 60 years old, and the outsider this time is a Finn. Despite my reservations I liked the book and shall read the other two available in English. Other reviewers have commented on the translation; true, not ideal but easier than learning Swedish.
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on 2 August 2015
very well written - it is not misery all round and not anti-capitalist (misery lovers and anti-capitalists be aware) unlike many other Scandinavian crime fiction. It is a prcedural with nice characters. I will return to this series.
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on 16 April 2014
I'm having a break from this book, I shall finish it, but am reading a Library book at the mo as Inspector Huss isn't really an "unputdownable" read, I've got to Chapter 5 and am flagging which is a shame. So, a readable whodunnit but not a gripping read YET.
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on 2 June 2013
I enjoyed this book. There is enough going on.

A very wealthy Swedish businessman is murdered. There is supposed insight to the lives of the wealthy.

The ending is a little weak.
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A first rate police procedural, which tries to stay as close to gritty realism as the need to entertain allows.
A well developed, multi threaded, plot moves along well, and I thought that the characterisation was pretty good. It is really refreshing, for the heroine to be happily married, respected by her colleagues and boss, and keen to be a good team member, rather than the usual stereotypes. Irene Huss comes across as a real human being rather than a cartoon.
I haven't given the book five stars, because of the truly dreadful translation. It is taken too literally, so that there is a lot of Swedish cadence and structure, translated word for word into what appears to be 1970s American English. The book deserves better, and the fact that it is still a very satisfying read says a lot for the strength of the original work by Helene Tursten.
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on 25 September 2013
I have been a fan of Scandinavian crime fiction for some time, Mankell, Larrson, Nesbo et al, and I was looking forward to a good read. This book was, however, a great disappointment. As another reviewer has suggested ?some/much? of the fault for this must go to the grotesque American translation and the use of wholly inappropriate American slang which clearly Irene Huss and her colleagues would never utter, even on their death beds. The read is so stilted that I almost gave up, but I soldiered on out of deference to the author, who should find a new translator. For what it's worth I shan't be reading any more of this series. Grim and got a star only because to review it I had to award at least one star .
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on 2 June 2013
I was really pleased when this was discounted because it had been on my 'wish list' for a while. I was very slow, and at first I thought this might just be the Swedish equivalent of a Donna Leon novel. A sort of gentle meandering sort of story. I think we probably lose a lot reading in in translation, but we were presented with an onslaught of names from the start, making it hard to remember who is who. ( It might be easier to read this in book form, so that you can turn back more easily.) Then it just rambled on, seemingly going nowhere, and I never really got interested in the Inspector herself. The characters never seemed to be fleshed out, and in the end I abandoned it. Anne Holt and Hakan Nesser are much better alternatives.
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on 23 December 2013
I gave up reading this pretty quickly, something I have only done a few times in nearly 40 years of reading. The translation is awful. You find yourself waiting for the next americanism to clunk onto the page in front of you. I couldn't go on.

This book may as well be set in New York or Los Angeles, in fact with this translation it should be.
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