My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When I picked this book to read, I was under the impression that it was the first in a series featuring female police inspector Ann Lindell of Uppsala, Sweden. It soon became apparent that it was not the first. Evidently, it is actually the fourth in the series but was the first to be translated into English.
Never mind. The author actually does a good job of providing the backstories of his main characters, so I did not feel as lost as I might have.
This is a police procedural, much in the vein of Ed McBain or Sjowall and Wahloo. It features a unit of the Uppsala police that is led by Inspector Lindell, but, in fact, in this particular book, Lindell is on maternity leave and she is only tangentially involved in the investigation of the crimes detailed. This is where it would have been useful to have read the previous book in order to get the full story of how she came to be where she is in her life.
She has a nine-month-old baby son named Erik. She is a single mother, living alone with the baby in an apartment, and she is getting very antsy because she misses her job and the daily contact with her co-workers. We learn a bit about Sweden's social safety net for new mothers, which seems quite impressive. Some readers might find such details extraneous, but I actually found them fascinating.
There are two murders to investigate, as well as an assault on a woman, and it is not clear at first whether there is a connection between them. All of this is handled by the unit which Lindell left behind when she went on maternity leave. She actually doesn't make an appearance in the book until about the halfway point. But with the murder of a young man that she knew from having interviewed him in relation to a crime that happened several years ago, she feels inexorably drawn to the investigation and can't help getting involved.
I really quite liked this group of police officers. They are presented as simply ordinary, everyday people, who are engaged and involved in their community and who are trying to do the best job that they can to protect it. We get to know some of their flaws as well as their strengths. There are no bad guys among them - although one of them does have a bit of a xenophobic streak - and they go about their jobs methodically and by the book. They are quite different from some of the messed-up Scandinavian police characters we've come to know through Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo, for example. No dour, psychosomatic, angry policemen (or women) here. And, yes, I was quite taken with the idea of having a woman lead the team. How refreshing!
I felt the plot and the characters were well-developed and the way the story was told did give me some insight into Swedish society and expanded my horizons. I like that in a book.
The one thing that really puzzled me at first was the title. What does The Princess of Burundi have to do with Uppsala, Sweden? But eventually we do learn where the title comes from, although even then, I felt it was a bit misleading.
I like Kjell Ericsson's style of writing and felt that this book showed great promise. I look forward to reading more in the series.
View all my reviews