Alphabet in crime fiction: Jungstedt

J  Mari_Jungstedt
Mari Jungstedt
 is a Swedish journalist and popular crime fiction author. Her first three novels have so far been translated into English by the superb Tiina Nunnally, and I hope the next three will follow soon. The books are set on the island of Gotland, which is near the Oland of Johan Theorin's novels, and feature Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas and journalist Johan Berg. I enjoy Mari Jungstedt's books for three reasons: they are well-plotted crime stories with the accent on police procedural; they provide insight into life on Gotland and the characters of people who live there; and the main characters have domestic lives and problems that develop throughout the series. Knutas is fairly unusual among many current policemen in that he has a good, longstanding marriage, whereas the cosmopolitan Stockholmite Berg is fatally attracted to a local married teacher, Emma, who has two small children, leading to many complications.

I have reviewed for Euro Crime all three of the novels that have been translated into English. Here's a taste of each.

Unseen opens with a description of a dinner party at the house of a young professional couple, Helena and Per, where things get a bit out of hand. The next morning, Helena goes for a walk on the misty beach and is later found murdered, together with her faithful dog. The subsequent police investigation is headed by Inspector Anders Knutas, a sensitive, middle-aged man who is irritated by the intrusion of the media into the case, who have discovered and want to reveal salacious details. Reminiscent of the Kurt Wallander series by Henning Mankell, Knutas and his close-knit team solidly look into all leads, investigating the dead woman's friends and family, in the process revealing much about the lifestyles and history of Gotlanders.

Unspoken is a great read, particularly strong in conveying the frailties of human emotion and in the juxtapositions of the police investigation with the media's reporting as well as the domestic lives of the characters.

Unknown (a.k.a. The Inner Circle). The author has a knack for conveying the apparently trivial yet all-important domestic problems of her characters, as well as a touching sympathy with the victims of the crimes she describes.

Even though I felt Unknown was not quite as good as the previous two novels in terms of the plot, I shall definitely return to these books when more are translated, partly because the police-procedural aspects, with the interplay between the detectives, is pretty much on a par (and similar to) Mankell's Wallendar books; and partly because of the excellent way in which TV media politics and the family upheavals of Emma and Johan are portrayed.

Publisher website.

Crime Fiction alphabet series at Petrona.

Mysteries in Paradise, home of the crime fiction alphabet. Visit this link if you would like to participate.

8 thoughts on “Alphabet in crime fiction: Jungstedt

  1. Maxine – Thanks for sharing Jungstedt with us : ). I’m really impressed with your knowledge of Scandanavian crime fiction, which is not one of my strengths. You’re really inspiring me to read more from those authors.

  2. I empathise with Bernadette! I read the first in the series, and really enjoyed it. I possess the second, and you’ve encouraged me to shift it up the pile….

  3. Thanks for this contribution Maxine. I need to get to UNSEEN and UNSPOKEN. I agree with Bernadette – work gets in the way!

  4. Margot, thanks for the comment. I think we are all specialists of one kind or another in our reading, and this is what for me makes it so interesting to read each others’ blogs and reviews. I have become particularly fond of Scandinavian crime fiction it is true, since discovering Euro Crime and the archives there, which give me lots of ideas for what to read next. I like the way that most translated novels from this region focus on plot, character and place, without all the special effects, modern technology and so on. In a way, these classic-style novels are a modern version of the books you know so well, eg Agatha Christie, but without the “cosy” element that I am not so keen on – I prefer more realism.
    Margot and Kerrie- your knowledge of Agatha Christie and other authors leaves me lost in admiration, too! Simiarly for Bernadette and Martin, we all seem to have so many books we want to read, the issue is finding the time😉

  5. Maxine, Tiina has turned in her 4th Mari Jungstedt translation to Transworld, and it should be out next year sometime. I believe it will be called The Killer’s Art. It has to do with the art world on Gotland and in Stockholm…

  6. Following on from Steve,’The Killer’s Art’–is published
    in the UK–by Doubleday on 18/3/10.

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