My reading at the moment is oscillating between Scandinavian crime fiction for the Petrona Award and ghost stories that bring back memories of my teenage years. More of the supernatural in a post next week. Meanwhile, all the Scandi books that I read were by familiar authors and it was a bit of a mixed bag.
MemoRandom by Anders de la Motte is his take on a familiar trope of crime novels, that of memory loss. David Sarac wakes up from a car crash and can only remember that he is a police officer and he needs to protect his informant, Janus. As his colleagues desperately try to elicit the identity of Janus, Sarac’s memory returns only in fragments. Natalie Aden, his carer who has also been tasked with spying on him, helps him piece his past together as his life becomes increasingly endangered. As I’d expect from De La Motte, MemoRandom is a fast-paced thriller with an entertaining storyline. There’s always something enjoyable about a book with a race to the conclusion. The translation was by Neil Smith.
I’m a big fan of Arnaldur Indridason but Oblivion proved to be a disappointment. There were all the elements that I enjoy in Indridason’s writing – the Icelandic landscape, the descriptions of native food and, of course, his detective Erlendur. While the writing was good, I found the plot to be lacklustre which is a shame as I persevered with it until the end. It’s a decent enough read and sits alongside the other books well enough. Fingers crossed for the next one. The translation was by Victoria Cribb.
In comparison The Caveman by Jorn Lier Horst is a cracker and his best book yet. There are two storylines both of which were fascinating. William Wisting is investigating a serial killer who may have made his way from the US to Norway. The presence of CIA agents adds to the pressure on his team to find the murderer. Meanwhile, Wisting’s daughter, Line, is doing a story on a man whose body was sitting, undiscovered, in his living room for four months. Focusing on the loneliness of some Norwegians, she soon realises that there is more to the man’s death than a sad story. Lier Horst has always excelled as a writer of police procedurals but here the story telling is second to none. I didn’t want the book to finish as I was so engrossed in the narrative. More please! The translation was by Anne Bruce.
Game, the first book in a trilogy by Anders de La Motte, has been developing a head of steam when it comes to book sales. I noticed even my local Tesco’s promoting it, and it’s not difficult to see why. Unlike much of Scandinavian crime fiction, with its focus on setting and the domestic, Game is a completely different type of read. We’re plunged into a world of cyber competitions where the lines between what is real and fiction are blurred.
Henrik (HP) Petterson finds a mobile phone on a Stockholm train which he intends to pocket and sell for hard cash. Instead, he is offered the chance to play ‘The Game’ with an immediate first challenge: to steal an umbrella off a commuter. He accepts the task and assumes that it’s a prank being played be one of his techie friends. However, he soon realises that he has become part of a wider online community consisting of watchers, participators and controllers of ‘The Game’. Meanwhile his sister, Rebecca, a police detective assigned to an elite bodyguard unit discovers that HP is involved in dangerous and illegal activities and, as he threatens to expose the mechanics of ‘The Game’, the hunter becomes the hunted.
You can immediately see why this book is so popular. Unlike so much I read, I can think of at least ten people who’d love this book. In essence, those who spend disproportionate time on their mobile phones. The book isn’t satire and yet it provides a horrible sense of what can happen when you lose track of reality and enter a parallel world of rivalry and increasingly amoral challenges. It’s a fast paced read and great fun. It has the feel of a film script and I wouldn’t be surprised is the story becomes a movie, so compelling is the action.
I did, occasionally, have a sense of deja vu when reading the book.The plot has echoes of some great movies: in particular The Matrix and Phone Booth although that’s not to say the novel felt particularly derivative, just that it drew on the tradition of cyber/technology conspiracy already out there. For a debut novel, it’s a cracking start to a writing career and I’m keen to see how the plot develops over the rest of the trilogy, which has already been published.
I’ve already passed my book on to one of those ten people. You can’t say fairer than that.
Thanks to Blue Door (Harper Collins) for my review copy. The translation was by Neil Smith.