Review: Helene Tursten – Night Rounds

The character of Detective Inspector Irene Huss has been hovering around my sub-conscience for a while, based mainly on reading some excellent reviews of the crime novels of Helene Tursten. This week I finally got around to reading this writer and was delighted to find a solid Scandinavian police procedural.

Night Rounds opens with the death of a nurse at the private Lowander Hospital in Goteborg, Sweden during a power cut. As a result of the loss of electricity, an ICU patient also dies and another nurse is discovered missing. Detective Irene Huss from the Violent Crimes Unit is called in to investigate and is dismayed by the account of an eye-witness who claims that the perpetrator was a nurse who was found hanged in the hospital’s attic sixty years earlier. The police reject a supernatural explanation and start to unpick the relationships and financial affairs of the hospital with interesting results. When a potential witness to the murder is found murdered, the police realise they have a deadly and possibly unhinged murderer to find quickly.

I have to confess I love a supernatural element in crime fiction and in Night Rounds it played only a minor but interesting role. I thought the plot was well constructed and kept the reader involved as we learned at the same time as the police how the case was unravelling. The plot was marred in a few places by some drastic omissions in the police investigation, for example their failure to search the attic where the ghostly nurse died until late in the case.

I found the character of Irene Huss is very engaging and the book is a nice balance between her professional work and her home life; looking after two teenage daughters, her busy chef husband and, not to forget, the dog Sammie. I particularly liked how the middle-aged Huss found some of the male witnesses attractive, which was a nice touch. Other characterisation was equally well done, with perhaps the exception of the bitchy pathologist Yvonne Stridner, whose unpleasantness really seemed extreme. The book was particularly good at showing the sexism that can arise in a predominately male team.

Although translated into English in 2012, the book was published in Sweden in 1999. Only in a few places did the narrative seem dated. At one point the detectives needed to consult a colleague to find out about a medical illness that would be easily searchable on a mobile phone today.  I’m looking forward to catching up with later books in the series and Irene Huss is now firmly on my radar.

I bought my copy of this book. Other reviews can be found at Petrona, Mysteries in Paradise and Murder by Type.

11 thoughts on “Review: Helene Tursten – Night Rounds

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – An excellent review, for which thanks. I think you’ve made a well-taken point about the balance between Huss’ personal and professional lives. I actually like the Huss family and in this novel I think the debate between Huss’ husband Krister and their daughter Jenny about food and vegetarianism is an interesting little thread even though it’s not really relevant for the mystery. I think Tursten does a solid job of evoking the hospital atmosphere too.


  2. I’m glad you enjoyed this book, Sarah, and as ever, your review is excellent. I have to say I found it not as good, quite, as the other three books so far translated – The Torso is the one I think the strongest. The personal/family themes of Irene are a great delight in all of them, I agree.

    I get confused about Gothenburg/Goteborg (especially when I read this book!)- they are the same place, I assume, even though they are translated both ways. I’ve just finished another Swedish book set there, also a US edition, which calls it Gothenburg throughout. I think some of the earlier Huss books (with different translators) call it Gothenburg, too.


    1. I get the impression looking at other reviews that the other 3 books are better reads so I am fortunate that I liked this one when I read it. I’m looking forward to reading the others. I always call the city Gothenburg but I’m not sure what is the pc name to give it now but I’m sure I saw Goteborg somewhere in the book.


  3. kathy d.

    Your review is very good. I do like Irene Huss a lot and the portrayal of her work and home life — and how well she balances both of these. However, I, too, found that this book was not as good as the other three which I devoured, couldn’t put them down, etc. Actually, I didn’t finish this one. Couldn’t get past the seemingly stilted language and supernatural element.
    I found the other three books more well-rounded and the language flowed better and things seemed better connected.
    Maybe sometime I’ll try again with this book, but I will read whatever adventures feature Irene Huss in the future.


    1. Thanks Kathy. I’m glad I started with the least liked book in the series so at least I know they get better and better. I did think the writing was quite sparse but I couldn’t work out if it was the author or the translation.


  4. kathy d.

    I think it’s because it was the author’s first book and that she honed her craft as she developed the next books. There is a very simplistic style in this book, which is not later repeated.
    I liked Irene Huss right away when I read whichever book it was that came out first in the States. No matter what happens, she’s seemingly unflappable and knows what to do, whether with a teenage daughter or a murder investigation. A very good woman protagonist.


  5. Interested to read this excellent review. I have not read any of the Irene Huss novels, but I have seen a number of episdes of “Irene Huss, Kripo Goeteborg,” on German TV (ARD), the German-dubbed version of the Swedish series with the well-known Swedish actress Angela Lovacs in the lead role. A very good series. Maybe someone will pick it up here. But I must read the novels!


    1. Dorothy – I’d love to see the Irene Huss TV series shown in the UK. Fingers crossed that it gets picked up by BBC4 (who show a lot of translated crime shows).


  6. Pingback: The Best of July’s Reading « crimepieces

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