The Torso, by Helene Tursten: a superb book

Based on the evidence of her first two books, there is no doubt in my mind that Helene Tursten has inherited the mantle of Maj Stowall and Per Wahloo, who wrote the type-example police procedurals back in the 1960s, in a series of ten novels featuring police detective Martin Beck. (Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels had a similar influence but I prefer Stowall/Wahloo.) There have been many very good Scandinavian police procedurals since, not least the excellent Henning Mankell, and plenty by authors from elsewhere of course, but I don’t think that anyone can better Helene Tursten. My review of her second novel, The Torso, has just been published at Euro Crime. From the review:


THE TORSO is a truly excellent read: the first two books that have been translated in this series are right at the top of my list of the best police-procedurals I have ever read. The true-to-life stories of the domestic lives of the detectives (which are best appreciated here if one has read the scene-setting DETECTIVE INSPECTOR HUSS); the personal compromises they have to make to get their jobs done; together with the dissection of every detail of the investigation, are a powerful combination. The shocks and thrills don’t come from special effects, but from what is uncovered about human nature. (The whole review is here.)


I reviewed Tursten’s first novel. Detective Inspector Huss, a few weeks ago. I challenge anyone to name a series of police procedurals that is as fine as this one (on the basis of the first two books of a series of, so far, three).

5 thoughts on “The Torso, by Helene Tursten: a superb book

  1. Wow! I could not decide on which book to start next, but this post has made up my mind. You know I am a Sjowall and Wahloo devotee so I will start Detective Inspector Huss with great expectations.

  2. I am entirely in agreement with you, Maxine, including what you say about the Sjowall/Wahloo mantle. I just finished Detective Inspector Huss, and at once put in a request for the other two Huss novels from my library. And then I updated my A+ list by adding Tursten and Arturo Perez-Reverte, whose Seville Communion and Flanders Panel I just finished, said list being of authors whose books I know will absorb me completely and afford the greatest pleasure and satisfaction.

  3. After reading your review of Detective Inspector Huss, which I’d read some time ago, I was reminded of my unread copy of Torso (which I unearthed in two languages, to my shame! Legacy of Amazon.de mass ordering.) I agree it was just as good as the first book, and I’ve managed to convert a friend too, so we can share the cost of the next few stories if we buy them in other-language translations. They really are excellent novels, and I’m slightly ashamed that I found Tursten rather more fun than Wahloo/Sjowall, who I’m also rereading at the moment. (I think it’s my tendency to get a bit tired of Martin Beck, and a preference for Irene’s chaotic household.)
    Incidentally, the translated books (not in order of appearance) are 1,3,4 in the series – book 2 doesn’t seem to have made it into English yet. I don’t think it’s quite as good, but it does provide some great character interaction, and some nice insights on sexism in the force and on Jenny’s dietary habits as mentioned in Torso.
    Why, o why must things be translated out of order?

  4. I really enjoyed this one too Maxine. Gave it 4.6 in my rating system
    “Irene Huss is strong, level-headed, intuitive, highly principled, but sometimes fallible.”

  5. I read The Torso a while ago, Maxine, and thought it every bit as good as you did. I have the first in the series on my TBR shelves, just waiting for me to find some spare time and the third is on a ‘to get’ list somewhere.

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