My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Much as I liked the character Harry Hole, I finally had to give up on Jo Nesbo's series. The sadism of the later books just got to be too much for me. I enjoy crime thrillers, but I don't enjoy reading about the crimes themselves, told in intricate and loving detail. I want to read about the solving of the crime and the personalities and interrelationships of the solvers of the mysteries.
So, I had been looking around for a replacement among Scandinavian mystery writers and recently there was a long article in The New York Times Sunday Book Review which discussed some of the most popular authors currently on the Scandinavian scene. After reading the article, I noted several of their names and decided to start my search for a Nesbo replacement among them.
After some consideration, I decided to give Sara Blaedel a try. She's a Danish author who writes about a woman detective (a plus for me) in the Copenhagen police department. From what I read of her in the article, she sounded promising.
One of the drawbacks of reading a Danish author, of course, is that I have to find translations of her work. Whenever one reads a translation, the reader should be a bit reticent about making judgments about the quality of the writing. If there are problems with the story, is it the author's fault or is it an infelicitous translation? And the truth is that I really don't know. I have no way of judging.
What I can say is that the language of this novel, as read in this translation, seemed really stilted, pedantic, and amateurish. It did not flow as one would expect from a best-selling author.
A case in point was the inappropriate overuse of the good old-fashioned Anglo-Saxonisms "fuck" and "fucking." Mostly used as adjectives, those words were just tossed into the dialog, often for no apparent reason, seemingly just to make the characters appear more like hip, street-wise cops. But having just spent my summer watching HBO's "The Wire" in which those words are organic elements of the speech patterns of the characters, the characters in Call Me Princess just seemed like children trying to sound like grownups.
And if I had hoped to escape descriptions of sadistic crimes, my hopes were immediately dashed.
The book begins with several pages of description of a brutal rape. A young woman is bound and gagged, then raped repeatedly and left in her apartment where she remains for hours before her mother finds her the next day. Detective Inspector Louise Rick is assigned to the case and learns that the victim met the rapist on a popular online dating site. It seems likely that the rapist is using this site to target specific women and that there may have been other such attacks.
Before the perpetrator can be tracked and stopped, he strikes again, but this time the victim dies and the police search becomes even more urgent.
Mixed in with this tale of heinous crimes, we get side stories of Louise's rather boring personal life and her problems with boyfriends - none of which are really very engaging.
My first experience with Sara Blaedel, then, was disappointing. I may eventually give her another chance and read some of the later books - after all, writers do tend to improve with experience - but the search for a Nesbo replacement goes on. I'll give some of the other guys a shot at the position.
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