Misterioso: A Crime Novel Hardcover – Jul 12 2011
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"A truly fine crime novel." —The Advocate
"[A] superb police procedural…Dahl has created a brilliant character and a terrific story, and should that not be enough, this is a classic cop-shop tale of the old school." —The Globe and Mail (Canada)
"Arne Dahl's Misterioso is an endearingly dour procedural…[The] existential brooding is very much part of the novel's charm…most of the fun of Misterioso comes from the follow-the-power, follow-the-money games played by Hjelm and his associates. And while Dahl clearly sees detective fiction as having the ability to tackle hard-hitting issues of the day, the mystery's solution isn't lacking in good old-fashioned puzzle intrigue, either." —Portland Mercury (US)
"Misterioso is a unique and wonderful book. It is part mystery, part police procedural, part existential philosophy, and part comedy. There is something so distinctive about this book that it resists categorization… There is not a dull moment. It seems like the Scandinavians are having a true renaissance in crime writing and Arne Dahl is right at the top." —Mostly Fiction
“Although this is Mankell’s turf, Dahl handles it differently but also very successfully. Mystery devotees who loved Mankell’s Kurt Wallander, and crime fiction ‘lifers’ who still treasure Sjowall’s and Wahloo’s Martin Beck, will want to add Paul Hjelm to their short lists of international favorites.” —Booklist (starred)
“An exciting debut…Fans of hard-boiled detective and Swedish novels will enjoy this.” —Library Journal
“Thoughtfully haunting and sometimes beautifully written, the first of Hjelm’s cases to be translated into English is likely to resonate with readers of the Stieg Larsson trilogy.” —Kirkus (starred)
“This is, without a doubt, one of the best Swedish crime novels of the year; well-written . . . and a chilling blow to the ways of contemporary society.” —Götesborgs-Posten (Sweden)
“A masterly crime novel.” —Kristelig Dagblad (Denmark)
“It seems as though Sweden has once again produced a brilliant and socially engaged crime novelist.” —Fyens Stiftstidende (Denmark)
“Misterioso is a detective story you have to read; as a debut novel it couldn’t be better.” —Xzine (Germany)
“Arne Dahl is phenomenal . . . Few Swedish crime novelists, if any, can get the reader to rush through each page like Dahl.” —Expressen (Sweden)
“With Misterioso, Arne Dahl, an acclaimed master of the crime genre, has delivered one of his most intensely intriguing thrillers.” —Corriere Della Sera (Italy)
“Dahl’s character studies of people in vulnerable situations are in the top class of the European detective novel genre.” —Die Zeit (Germany)
About the Author
Arne Dahl is an award-winning crime novelist and literary critic. He lives in Sweden.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
While the story is similar to countless other serial killer novels it is the writing that makes this book rise above the rest. Unlike so many detective novels dealing with serial killers, this book doesn't focus on endless, gruesome details of torture and gore. The killer's exploits aren't recounted in nauseating and tedious detail. The author instead focuses on character development and describing the background that shaped the world-view of the serial killer.
The story takes place in 1990s Sweden in an atmosphere of racial tension and national self-loathing over the greedy banking fiasco of the 1980s (a period of self-introspection our own nation seems to have skipped) Dahl's protagonist, Paul Hjelm, is simultaneously undergoing his own period of self-introspection as career and family issues collide to make him question himself-- to make him look into himself and confront "the abyss."
I won't bother to describe the entire story in this review, what I would like to say is that Dahl's Hjelm is a lot of fun to read. He reminds me a bit of Martin Cruz-Smith's Arkady Renko, but without that character's martyr complex and self-destructive streak. Hjelm is human without being boring and cool without being a cartoon character.
I think the best part of this book is the complex view it gave me of Sweden, a country I know practically nothing about. Until reading this book I only though of blond, beautiful, happy Swedes, helping each other and being good citizens (okay, a I knew about a bit of angst a la Bergman, of course).
I whole-heartedly recommend this book to readers who eschew the Patricia Cornwall and James Patterson formulas and enjoy something edgier, along the lines of Ken Bruen, Peter Hoeg, and Cruz-Smith.
All of this takes place in Sweden (since plots in the genre are often similar, it is the setting and the society that the reader also wants to experience.) In this case, the time period is contemporary with its initial publication: Prime Minister Palme had been assassinated a few years previously, the Soviet Union had recently dissolved and Russian crime networks were diversifying into Western Europe and a banking scandal had weakened the economy and wrecked individual lives. Aside from procedural mechanics, this is the foundation for the story: what is a just society, what forces are loosed when one class betrays others, how do different individuals come to work together? These topics are deftly handled to enrich the reading experience rather than to 'preach' to any text. Characters are realistic, no matter whether they are heros or villains. Language is decorous rather than shocking or vicious. I can imagine my wife enjoying this book as much as any 'guy' since both genders get even breaks as the tale is told.
This will be a great book to take along on vacation.
Besides the map, download Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso (Live)." Having been introduced to Monk's music when it was on vinyl, I found that it lost nothing on my iTunes version. Now you're ready to have some great fun with this book.
On the investigative side of the ledger is detective Paul Hjelm. About to be fired (or demoted, or whatever they do in Sweden to discipline cops), he is snatched up into an elite investigative team to find a serial killer who is bumping off Swedish business leaders. Soon we learn that the killer enjoys listening to Monk's Misterioso while rubbing out a number of businessmen. Throughout the book there is a reference to the Palme case and why the urgency of solving the "Power Killer" case is so important in reference to Palme. For those who don't know, Olof Palme was the Swedish prime minister who was assassinated in 1986. The case was never solved, and it is a sticking point with the Swedish police. Hence, any whiff of crimes that involve elimination of political or business leaders in Sweden is cause for immediate and firm action. Hjelm is no Sam Spade, Elvis Cole or Archie Goodwin. Nor is he Sherlock Holmes or Nero Wolfe, two confirmed bachelors. Further, he is wholly and firmly a Swede. Lest we be entangled in detective provincialism, it is important to understand the somewhat serious nature of the Swedes. Maybe "serious" isn't the right word, and compared to the Finns, Swedes are wild and crazy guys. There's a certain purposefulness in the Swedish culture, and unlike the morose fatalism of the neighboring Russians, the Swedes expect to get things done. Consider the fact that Sweden with the population of New Jersey has two world-marketed cars (Volvo and Saab) and even their own jets.
The book jars the reader's attention early on with Hjelm's relationship with his wife, which goes from bad to worse as the book progresses. It is not a new invention in detective or cop novels to have heros with relationship problems. The attention demanded by the nature of police work drains relationships in both novels and real life. However, the reader is not overly burdened by Hjelm's family problems. Hjelm is way too busy going after the serial killer. The characters that the author, Arne Dahl, throws together making up the special 'A Unit' tasked with tracking down the 'Power Killer' is a wonderful mix. One is a "blackhead," (a non-blonde, non-Scandinavian) with Spanish origins but born in Sweden. Another is a crazy Finn, another a woman and a witch's brew of hand-picked characters that comprise the special squad led by a head-butting cop who enters and leaves the team's conference room by a special door.
During the course of the investigation, the reader may find him/herself rooting for the serial killer as the killer's victims are pretty creepy themselves. We're also introduced to different mob-like groups from the region, and that's why it helps to know something about the area's geography. (Interestingly, none of the mobs are of Swedish origins but left-overs from the Soviet regime.) The mystery takes the reader on a guided tour of Sweden, a side trip to Tallinn, Estonia, which will definitely give the reader pause about messing with those Estonians, and all over Sweden. You'll find lots of dangerous characters, less than sterling cops, and plenty of red herrings (as well as picked ones) to keep you guessing and turning pages.
The ending dialog between detective Hjelm and the serial killer provides a surprising insight into aspects of the Swedish character: they don't like change. Life should be orderly and predictable. For the time-obsessed Swedes, whose high expectations for the reasonable and predictable are part of who they are; the chaos of the post Cold War world is often more than they can handle. A country made up of unchanging and predictable Swedes is seen as best for all, but of course it's just an illusion.
That being said, my expectations of "Misterioso" were quite high when I started the book. It had a captivating beginning, a protagonist with promise, and a political backdrop to the story's setting. But...then the beginning started slowing down, making for a very drawn out middle. I started to forget who was who. One scene in the book was written from the perspective of 2 different people and I had to reread it to make sure I understood what was going on. Some scenes were beautifully written while others read like a cheap translation in a textbook.
I was getting frustrated. I really wanted to like this book. I really wanted to find another James Thompson or Henning Mankell or even Steig Larrson. But, when I only had a few pages left to read and I couldn't find the book...I didn't care. That may sound extreme, but it is how I felt. Sorry.
I gave the book 3 stars because I do think the lead, Paul Hjelm is a well-written character. Maybe the next book in the series is better; if so, I would consider reading it because of the lead. Meanwhile, when I find my book, I need to finish the last 4 pages.
Such a dystopia threatens to destroy Swedish police detective Paul Hjelm. A hero scheduled for demolition, he is snatched from impending doom by friendly connections--and by necessity. Hjelm is drafted for a special squad whose first case is a possible serial killer.
The solution is a matter of steady, solid police work sparked enough by initiative to get any of them fired. As the story progresses Hjelm's personal life unravels in a series of personal and intimate scenes, and the loose ends threaten to become caught up in his police work.
Arne Dahl's Misterioso is translated from the Swedish by Tiina Nunnelly. The translation is idiomatic, never awkward, and usually silky smooth. The story is well-crafted with a few excesses that are justified by the lurking dystopias in Hjelm's world. Characters voice prejudices about the USA that will strike most Americans as absurd, but that may say more about the diseases infecting the polity of Hjelm's Sweden than they do about the USA.
On the whose, Misterioso is a good story well told. My preference is for a little less intimate detail (this is not a book for young adults!) but it is not pornographic in any real sense of the word. Mysterioso is the first of three books in a set by Arne Dahl, and I look forward to seeing the other two.