I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run
Anyone who has watched The Killing (Danish version) will know that this type of Nordic crime telling has a raw, edgy yet intensive burn. It's almost as if the action is slowed down, and combining this with the bleakness and solitude of the weather and dour intensive characters certainly makes for unmissable viewing. This translates very well into the written word and I have always enjoyed reading the highly addictive prose of Jo Nesbo and Henning Mankell. Having therefore read the positive amazon reviews and noting that the English "Daily Express" has described the book as "Terrifying yet hugely enjoyable" I was eager to make the acquaintance of The Stalker!
The synopsis is simple. The National Crime Investigation Department, based in Stockholm, is receiving tapes/video that purport to show a young lady alone at night in her house plainly unaware that she is the subject of some deranged mind. Soon after the tape is received a badly mutilated, and savaged body is discovered the natural conclusion being that the narcissistic killer is pre warning the police of his intentions and they can do nothing to stop him as he is in total control. Imagine you, the reader, alone at night with the windows and doors hopefully locked and secured when you read the following....."There's a breeze blowing straight through the kitchen. The door to the garden is wide open. The thin curtain of plastic strips is fluttering into the room. She walks slowly forward. It's hard to see anything behind the dancing curtain. There could be someone standing just outside...."........"holds her breath when she hears footsteps outside the cupboard. They move off in the direction of the kitchen, the doors knock against each other the other door slips open a couple of millimetres. She stands in the darkness with her eyes open wide, and hears a kitchen drawer being opened. There's a metallic clattering sound, and she's breathing in short gasps....." These highly memorable and truly frightening descriptions were in all honesty the highlight of what in reality became a ponderous and very average crime thriller.
Detective Margot Silverman is senior officer tasked with bringing the stalker to justice. After a very short period she is instructed to approach and enlist the help of D I Joona Linna who is on compassionate leave. I thought this was a mistake as the heavily pregnant Margot was a much more interesting and likeable personality and it would have been good to understand how she combined a stressful job with pregnancy and home. Eric Maria Bark, psychiatrist and psychotherapist, hopes that his insight into the psychotic mind can play a positive contribution into the investigation. A bizarre situation develops when Eric decides to commence piano lessons (??) Within a very short time he is sha**ing the piano teacher and making a clumsy attempt at a Chopin Etude. It is this type of random incident that really turned what could have been an excellent frightening thriller into a very mediocre story. (spoiler to follow) A totally unexpected event happens when Katryna, the wife of Margot's assistant Adam Youssef, becomes the next victim of the stalker. Now the hunt for the killer is personal but unfortunately the author barely mentions Adam or Katryna again. How did this traumatic event effect Detective Youssef? This was such an horrific occurrence and yet the author barely makes mention in the remainder of the book.
Apart from a few genuinely brilliant moments the storytelling was very average, lots of time and description wasted on a clueless police force chasing an elusive psychopath throughout the streets and suburbs of Stockholm. What about the killer you may ask? Without wishing to unveil or spoil your entertainment (?) I found the disclosure of the killer preposterous and highly unlikely...of course you may choose to disagree. I realize that Jonna Linna is the main character in The Stalker as it is part of a series. The author missed a good opportunity here to remove an overrated, conceited and unfit Detective Inspector and replace with the womanly charms of the unassuming Margot Silverman.