When the mutilated body of tropical fish collector John Jonsson is discovered in Uppsala the police are baffled – he may not have been a saint, but who would want to kill him, and in such a brutal way?
Inspector Ann Lindell, working the case, is convinced that the killer has been swiftly identified, but then doubts begin to creep in: what if she’s wrong? As increasingly sinister events begin to unfold, and Jonsson’s family gets further involved, Lindell and her team must unravel the complex clues and stop the killer before it’s too late…
I came across Kjell Eriksson in a catalogue from The Book People, who were offering his first three books as a trilogy and recommended them for fans of Åsa Larsson, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, all of whom have burrowed down into my admired authors list and were obviously pining for a fellow Swede to make up a quartet. The Princess of Burundi is the first of Eriksson’s books, introducing Inspector Ann Lindell and her team of detectives as they battle the brutal Swedish winter, bloody murders, complex crimes and unsavoury inhabitants of their cosmopolitan district Uppsala.
TPOB won the Swedish Crime Academy Award for Best Crime Novel, a title I feel well deserved, as it had me gripped from the beginning and desperate to figure out the chain of events that led to the gruesome murder we happen across part way in. I liked the fact that we were not confronted with the death immediately; rather the first few chapters are told from the viewpoints of the different characters we are to discover as the story progresses, each offering up both the voice of the person they represent and a few ordinary seeming moments or flashbacks which we just know will come to be of utmost importance sooner or later.
The script is sinister, unforgiving and filled with suspense, managing to genuinely frighten at times – especially in the dialogue of Vincent Hahn, one of the creepiest characters I have ever come across in crime literature. The fact that Hahn appears as separate and additional to the killer terrorizing the town only adds to the confusion and panic that Eriksson so expertly manages to weave into his novel, and we as the reader are drawn quickly into the manic cat-and-mouse game undertaken by Lindell and her force as they try to solve a seemingly impossible crime. Eriksson is a very talented writer, being able to abruptly change the voice of his narrator from chapter to chapter and character to character, whilst maintaining the pace needed for a successful crime novel. He writes flashbacks very well, allowing us to gain a bigger insight into the investigation without getting too muddled or confused
Murders without apparent motive are always the best to read about, as the drawn out ‘why’ adds an edge to what is already a macabre situation – unhinged, random killings tend to strike a certain chord with the average reader, suggesting as they do a ‘what if it were me’ personal connection to the fiction.
Without giving any details of the plot away, all that remains to say is that TPOB is a dark, moody, unnerving and chilling crime novel, offering multiple twists and turns, personable/believable characters, intriguing narration and a spellbinding conclusion. My only criticism would be that perhaps there are too many detectives working on the case; the personalities of the ‘hangers on’ are never really fully developed, and at times I found myself getting a bit lost with who was who and what department they worked for. Hopefully these characters will become more ingrained and familiar throughout Eriksson’s follow on novels, which after his highly successful debut, I am now itching to read.