Monday, May 11, 2015

The Cruel Stars of the Night by Kjell Eriksson: A review

The Cruel Stars of the Night (Ann Lindell, #6)The Cruel Stars of the Night by Kjell Eriksson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm always hesitant to criticize the translation of a book from another language into English. After all, English is not an easy language, and I think it must be very difficult to convey the meaning of another language into English in a smooth, easy-flowing manner. That being the case, I still must say that I found this particular translation by Ebba Segerberg of Kjell Eriksson's The Cruel Stars of the the Night from Swedish into English to be especially clunky and stilted. It is likely that it contributed to my overall somewhat negative opinion of the book.

Having recently read and been entertained by Eriksson's first book to be translated into English, The Princess of Burundi, I decided to push ahead with reading this second book in translation (actually the sixth in the series). I found it much less enjoyable.

The plot here was rather confusing. I was well over halfway through the book before I really started to sort it out and make sense of it.

It began with a woman reporting her father, a professor of around seventy years, as missing. We don't really learn too much about the police's response to this report. Presumably, they investigate, but we're given no particulars.

About a month after that disappearance, we have the first of three murders of seventyish men. The other two murders follow within weeks, but at first there doesn't appear to be any connection between the incidents, other than the fact that all three men were bashed on the head with a blunt instrument of some sort. They do not seem to have known each other in life and they all lived quietly and had no obvious enemies.

Meantime, we also get to know more about the woman who had initially reported her father missing - her father who has never turned up. Her name is Laura Hindersten and she seems to be quite crazy. She is obsessed with one of her male co-workers, whom we learn, somewhat belatedly, is married. Laura is determined to have him and vows to get the wife out of the way.

During all this time, the police investigation of the murders is proceeding in a seemingly leisurely fashion. There are no leads and they have little hope of being able to solve the crimes.

Then a former (I think) police official has an epiphany while playing chess. He sees that his opponent is using the strategy from a little known match that only a chess nerd would be familiar with, and, suddenly, he is convinced that the murderer is following the same moves in choosing his victims. He notifies the police of his theory and they take it seriously. It's a weird theory, but the author spends considerable time developing it.  

Once again in this book as in the previous one, Inspector Ann Lindell who leads the team at the Uppsala police department's Violent Crimes division seems almost secondary to the story. We learn more about her lonely personal life and are told that she's devoted to her career. Her co-workers are apparently very fond of her and loyal to her, but we don't really know the source of those feelings. Perhaps they were developed in some of the books that have not been translated into English.

In addition to the stilted translation, there are red herrings galore in this book, to the point of their being distracting and ultimately annoying. There are more red herrings than red meat.

The plot develops slowly and methodically. There's nothing wrong with that, but after such a slow buildup, one hopes for a satisfying climax and it just doesn't come. The ending is so ambiguous as to leave us hanging. Is this to be continued in a later book?  There's no indication of that, but it would certainly have been good to know exactly what happened to the villain of the piece.


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4 comments:

  1. "There are more red herrings than red meat"... That's funny, Dorothy. Is it the same translator than the other book you read? It's a pity that either the series or the translation turn a turn for the worse. I thought you had found another promising one.

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    1. I'll have to check but I believe the translator on the first one was different. At least the feeling of the translation was quite different with this book. I can appreciate, though, that translating Swedish into English would not be an easy task.

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  2. I'm glad that you don't mince words, Ms. Dorothy, when you review a book, although you're collegial about it. Too many people shy away from telling it like it is, perhaps because they haven't learned how to think critically. They either don't understand the distinction between critical thought and criticism, or they've been taught that if you can't say something nice about something then you shouldn't say anything at all.

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    1. I strive to give my honest reactions to books without being rude or dismissive toward the writer. Anyone who manages to write a book and get it published is worthy of some respect in my book. There are several much more positive reviews of this particular book on Goodreads, so some obviously enjoyed it more than I did. It just wasn't my cup of tea.

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