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[Saturday Reads] Two European Crime Novels – One I Liked, The Other One Not So Much

Guess which one I liked?


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

I have been itching to read these two books for our current reading theme – mainly because these are European crime novels, reputed to be grim, complex, brutal, and in-your-face. Add the fact that I have these books waiting to be read at the right time for quite awhile now.

The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye

Continuing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series by David Lagercrantz
Published by Quercus Publishing (2017)
ISBN: 0857056425 (ISBN13: 9780857056429)
Original Title: Mannen som sökte sin skugga
Review copy provided by Pansing Books.

David Lagercrantz has taken off from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series since Book 4 (The Girl In The Spider’s Webwhich I truly enjoyed. This one, however, is a different experience altogether. While we still find the usual characters – Lisbeth Salander and the fairly-tolerable, flawed-yet-still-endearing journalist Mikael Blomkvist – they seem to have played minor roles here. Central to the narrative is a social scientific experiment gone wrong, twins torn apart (including Lisbeth and her psycho twin), what life in prison is like, and the prevailing issue of otherness.

The story remains readable – in fact, much of my therapeutic release from the stresses of moving houses a few months back was bringing this book while shopping for home renovation stuff in Ikea – because reading a Swedish book while in a Swedish store, eating Swedish meatballs has a certain resonance to it.

However, I found the differing timelines presented in different typography jarring and unnecessary. The shifts felt contrived and I don’t see the flow being affected all that much, if the timeline remained at present, rather than perceived from the lenses of a distant memory. I was not that deeply drawn into the story, and truth be told, couldn’t wait for it to be finished. While I was fascinated by the twins experiment, being a social scientist myself, it was difficult to suspend disbelief, because ethical procedures are now in place to prevent something like this from happening; although, I am certain that unconscionable acts are still committed in the name of science. There was also something fascinating about twins discovering each other in late life, mixed in with a bit of mystery, and criminal elements here and there. Lisbeth Salander still kicked ass, and she still has this thing for helpless underdogs. I am pretty sure I would still read the next few books in the series.

In The Woods

Written by Tana French
Published by Hodder & Stoughton (2007, This paperback edition 2017)
ISBN: 1444758349 (ISBN13: 9781444758344)
Literary Awards: Barry Award for Best First Novel (2008), Macavity Award for Best First Mystery Novel (2008), Anthony Award for Best First Novel (2008), Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author (2008)
Review copy provided by Pansing Books.

I knew I had to bring this book while I was in Dublin. It was the perfect book to carry around while touring the sites and dining on my own. This book is complexly-drawn, with the readers being presented with two murders: one at present with a 12 year old ballet dancer murdered and violated in an archaeological site in the woods; and the disappearance of two young children, roughly the same age, twenty years earlier in the same woods. Both mysteries had one thing in common: an extremely unlikable character named Rob Ryan, the lead police detective from the Dublin Murder Squad who was assigned the present case, and who also happens to be the sole survivor and the friend of the two young children who disappeared in the woods. Naturally, he had to keep this a secret from his commanding officer, for fear of being removed from the case (because d’uh?).

I never knew and never will whether either Cassie or I was a great detective, though I suspect not, but I know this: we made a team worthy of bard-songs and history books. This was our last and greatest dance together, danced in a tiny interview room with darkness outside and rain falling soft and relentless on the roof, for no audience but the doomed and the dead. (p. 457).

What I particularly enjoyed about this book is the supremely confident way in which it was written, the turns of phrase, the maddening build-up, that was excruciatingly gradual somewhere in the middle, that you just want the narrator to pleasepleaseplease remember something, or simply do something, to move the story forward. Even the highly unlikeable narrator Rob Ryan and his conversational, engaging, high-handed tone made me smile – because I admired the way that the author made me so upset with his insensitivity, callousness, and utter stupidity, notwithstanding his being supposedly brilliant. I also did not mind the ending, even though I am aware that a few people are very frustrated with it – so anticlimactic with little resolution. Yet, even that, I appreciated, because it was so deftly executed. Cassie was the saving grace in the story, and I can not wait to read the other books that will ostensibly show things and present new cases from her perspective. I am so very happy with myself that I bought all the other books while in Dublin. Tana French is one cunning author that you need to read stat, if you haven’t already.

#LitWorld2018GB Update: 47 (of target 40) Tana French is from Ireland.

David Lagercrantz is from Denmark.

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

2 comments on “[Saturday Reads] Two European Crime Novels – One I Liked, The Other One Not So Much

  1. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] Round Up of My Literary Journey and My Best in Books Across Quarterly Reading Themes – Gathering Books

  2. Pingback: [Photo Journal] Dining In Dublin Part 2: Crepes in Ireland – Gathering Books

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