Martin Suter, The Last Weynfeldt, trans. Steph Morris, No Exit Press
Martin Suter is Swiss, and sets his crime fiction in Switzerland. Adrian Weynfeldt is an expert in paintings at a local auction house in Zurich. (Local is itself more or less a term of art.) He lives alone in the large family flat, which has at its centre the memory of someone who has already died—his mother–at a great age, naturally, leaving behind her only child. So well brought up is this last Weynfeldt that his veneer appears to be impenetrable. His manners are a work of art, his works of art are impeccable, and his wealth is great. He seems not to realise that he is lonely, until he rescues a shoplifter. And thus begins his life of crime, in a milieu in which his word is his bond. This isn’t a wonderful novel, but it is lightly amusing throughout. The apogee is when Weynfeldt decides to turn one of the rooms in his enormous apartment into a small gym. Nothing interesting there, except that the room he chooses was his mother’s bedroom, which has (until now) remained as she left it. The book is lightly sketched throughout and quite predictable. Should you be unfortunate enough to get the ’flu this winter you might enjoy it.
Ragnar Jónasson, The Darkness, trans. Victoria Cribb, Penguin/Michael Joseph
Jónasson is a prolific writer whose first series was more or less police procedural. My reservations about the young main character have appeared in Crimetime. This new book—well, new outside Iceland—has a female detective, Hulda, who is being pushed into retirement. It is often problematic for male authors to get inside a female character, and this book is one of those. No cliché is left unstoned. My experience of Icelandic detectives is minimal, but it seems to me unusual—even for a cold case—for a detective to go off on her own to interview, and certainly in today’s world not to let anyone know where she’s going. Hulda is a pathetic woman looking toward a future with a new partner, but her past hangs on her. Hulda’s boss—he who has insisted she retire at once—changes character completely most of the way through the book, and wins the ‘most clichéd’ character award. There are several twists, which are not surprising, and an authorial attempt to end the book with a funeral address which gets everything wrong and is, no doubt, intended to be wry and witty.
Yrsa Sigurdardottir, The Legacy, trans. Victoria Cribb, Hodder & Stoughton
This is volume one of a new series. The Reckoning, the second book, is already published. It contains some horrible murders, and deals—at the Children’s House—with abuse one might prefer not to read, but it is integral to the book and the title. CB radio has a part to play in the plot, with coded messages. The central female character, Freyja, is a strong presence, and knows her way to interviewing children who have had terrible experiences. The book is rich in suspects. There couldn’t be a better contrast to Jónasson’s bare outlines: in particular, Sigurdardottir is able to set up a relationship between Freyja and the detective, Huldar, who imagines she fancies him. She doesn’t.