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.