Welcome to the first 2017 meeting of The Book Review Club. You're in for a fantastic February treat as my critique partner, Kelly Hayes, is in charge of the review on my blog this month. Here's my rule of thumb: If Kelly recommends it, I read it!
by Camilla Grebe (psychological thriller, Scandinavian)
I don't know about you, but lately I can't seem to get enough of Scandinavian crime novels. There's just something about the moody atmosphere, not quite Noir, which can oftentimes be too dark, and not the sanitized commerciality of a lot of American crime fiction. There's a low-key authenticity to most Scandinavian crime fiction that juxtaposes nicely with its more fantastic elements, making it feel universal and yet somehow exotic.
THE ICE BENEATH HER by Camilla Grebe is one such crime novel. It takes place in Stockholm, Sweden where a woman's body is found brutally beheaded in the home of Jesper Orre, the controversial CEO of a huge fashion chain. Of course, Orre is the main suspect, but seems to have disappeared into thin air, leaving his cell phone and wallet at home. And then there are the gruesome similarities between this case and an unsolved one from ten years before where a man was beheaded in the same way.
We get the story from three different perspectives: Peter Lindgren, one of the detectives investigating the case, Hanne Lagerlind-Schon, a criminal profiler who has had a past relationship with Peter, and Emma Bohman, a young sales clerk who worked for Jesper Orre's company and had a secret affair with him.
For the first half of the book, the plot kind of takes a backseat to the three main characters, as we live inside their heads and see the story through their eyes. There's Peter with his crippling fear of commitment. Hanne has early onset Alzheimer's which threatens her brilliant work as a profiler. And then there's Emma whose story takes place months before the murder. Her naivete and abusive background make her the ultimate target for a playboy like Jesper.
Emma is the character that really stood out for me. There's something so sadly inevitable about the tragic chain of events in Emma's life and her inability to pull herself out of the mire that got to me emotionally. And kept me turning pages.
But nothing in this book is as it seems. Just when you think you'e figured it out, it changes. And even if you do deduce who did it, it doesn't really matter because there's still plenty more tension to come, and plenty more to discover.
And that, I think, is the key to the success of Scandinavian crime fiction. It doesn't necessarily rely on plot devices to keep you reading. The characters often seem so real, you want to know what happens to them even after then mystery is solved.
(Dear FCC: I forgot to ask Kelly where she got her copy of this book. But if I were a betting woman, I'd bet her local library.)
And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!
MIDDLE GRADE AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS
Jody Feldman: COSMIC by Frank Cottrell Boyce (middle grade)
This review examines a medley of humorous middle-grade novels.
Sarah Laurence: THE LOOSE ENDS LIST by Carrie Firestone (contemporary YA)
Stacy Nyikos: SPARE AND FOUND PARTS by Sarah Maria Griffin (horror YA)
Stacy of the Cat's Meow: MOSQUITOLAND by David Arnold (contemporary YA)
ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS
Alyssa Goodnight: AGATHA RAISIN AND THE QUICHE OF DEATH by M.C. Beaton
Ellen Booraem: HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi (historical, literary)
Linda McLaughlin: IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE by Sinclair Lewis (Classic Fiction)
Patti Abbott: TRUE GRIT by Charles Portis (western)
Tanya Sutton: SECURITY by Gina Wohlsdorf (horror, thriller)
Jenn Jilks: WOMAN INCOGNITO: TRANSGENDER WITHOUT TRANSITION
by Transcender Lee (autobiography)
Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: THE BIOGRAPHY OF NATALIE WOOD by Suzanne Finstad
Ray Potthoff: I COULD TELL YOU STORIES: SOJOURNS IN THE LAND OF MEMORY
by Patricia Hampl (memoir)
Scott Parker: THE PULP JUNGLE by Frank Gruber (autobiography)