Friday, December 09, 2011

Helene Tursten, THE GLASS DEVIL, A Detective Inspector Irene Huss Investigation Set in Sweden and England

This third translated crime novel from Swede Helene Tursten -- made available in the US in 2007 from Soho Crime -- is a nice place to start in getting acquainted with a new detective. It's easy to find copies in good condition (we have two lovely ones), and there's some agreement among readers that THE GLASS DEVIL, whether by translation quality or author experience, is a stronger read than its predecessors (Detective Inspector Huss and The Torso). I wanted to catch up a bit, before next February's release of the new Tursten.

And glory be, here's a Scandinavian detection novel that's not all shadows and violence! Yes, there are deaths -- in fact, they take place at the start of the book -- but police detective Irene Huss is entirely involved with the living: her not-very-healthy boss, her overscheduled co-workers, the many people in the Kullahult Church Association affected by the murders of their pastor and his wife and son, and, most compelling of all, the last living member of that family, the pastor's daughter, living in England and unwilling to talk about her family or the circumstances that could have led to the three deaths. But there are hints that a Satanist might have been involved.

Huss is alert and attentive, and her observations bring out possibilities in plot and characters. Consider this, from the interviews she holds with the Church Association leaders:
Irene nodded and was about to ask her next question when a new thought suddenly struck her. "Do you know if Rebecka had helped her father to trace the Satanists over the Internet?" she asked.

Bengt Måårdh looked at Irene in surprise. "I really don't know! Certainly Sten had a lot of ideas about how he was going to find those responsible, but I've never heard him talk about tracking them via the Internet."

But others have, thought Irene. If Rebecka was involved in her father's investigation in some way, maybe she would have some information to give them. Was she threatened as well? That couldn't be ruled out. Thankfully, the English police had promised to keep an eye on her.
As hinted by the book's long subtitle, the investigation takes Huss to England herself, to interview Rebecka in person, twice. Sane, friendly, only mildly wounded by controversies and confrontations from her own past, Irene Huss is a persistent and determined detective, a "Sherlock Holmes" with neither a drug habit nor a violin but a willingness to assemble enough evidence to eventually make clear the underlying causes and entangled people for the crimes.

I noticed that police technology is changing so rapidly that some of the actions Irene undertakes are already a bit dated, in terms of computers and the Internet. But the story holds up well, and I'm glad I dove into it. If you've been wondering whether all Scandinavian crime fiction was desperate and dark, here's the answer: Not all of it. This one's a charmer, leaving the dire aspects at the side of the corpses, and letting the investigator -- and her family -- show an active, mostly cheerful life.

Oh -- there's no website for Tursten at this point, although there's a fan site and I found a good review at Detectives Beyond Borders (love that blog!). Let's hope Soho Crime makes more info available on this native Swede, whose work has already been adapted to films and television in Europe.

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