Reading continues for the 2018 Petrona Award judging session which is taking place in April. Here’s a summary of some of the contenders.
The Dying Game by Asa Avdic is an unusual read. Set in 2037, the Protectorate of Sweden is a dictatorship whose status isn’t recognised by the US or Western bloc countries. Anna Francis is a government official, intelligent and capable, who is sent to the remote island of Isola. Her mission is to pretend to have been murdered in front of a group of invited guests who will then be observed to see how they react. With shades of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, The Dying Game has an interesting premise but a confusing plot which nevertheless keeps the reader interested until the end. The translation is by Rachel Wilson-Broyles.
Peter Hoeg’s The Susan Effect is also set in the near future, here a paranoid Denmark. Susan Svendsen is gifted with an unusual talent: people are compelled to confide their secrets to her. This talent is magnified when she’s with her husband, the renowned composer Laban, who has a similar effect on people. After a trip to India, all of her family, including their twin children, are facing prison sentences. Susan is given the opportunity of an amnesty for their crimes, if she uses her talents to find out details of the secretive Future Committee. The Susan Effect is a very well written thriller which highlights what it feels like to be on the outside of ordinary society. The near future setting just about allows some of the slightly stranger plot points to work and this book is well worth a read. The translation is by Martin Aitken.
Antti Tuomainen’s The Man Who Died is a departure for this author whose previous books have been dark thrillers. Jack Kaunismaa is a mushroom industry entrepreneur who discovers he is dying due to prolonged exposure to toxins. He decides to investigate his wife and associates to uncover who has poisoned him, without revealing his diagnosis and comes under a barrage of assaults from those who wish him dead. The Man Who Died is a darkly humorous book which requires the reader to suspend reality for a moment, which is no bad thing.The translation is by David Hackston.
Finally, a Finnish offering with a twist on a couple of classic crime motifs. In Cruel is the Night, two couples meet in an expensive London apartment. Robert and Mikko have been friends for years but, as the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that their lives and that of their wives are intertwined and beset by long-held grudges. By the end of the evening, three are dead. In a clever, contemporary take on Christie’s And Then There Were None with a dash of a locked room mystery, Karo Hämäläinen paints a portrait of wealthy lives and murderous intent. The translation is by Owen Witesman.