Having completed the Sisters in Crime book bloggers’ moderate challenge, I am now embarking on the expert level. I managed to get half-way through this level in 2011, but unlike many other successfully completed challenges by other bloggers, still have five more posts to go on this one. So, without more ado, I have to:
write ten blog posts about works of crime fiction by women authors. For each, mention three similar women authors whose works you would recommend.
Inger Frimansson is a Swedish author of suspenseful, psychologically dark crime fiction. Or, as the author herself puts it: “You look so nice and decent, how is it that you write such horrific novels? I’m often asked that kind of question. And the answer is, I didn’t exactly choose to, I more or less was compelled to. The characters I meet up with in my fictions, they just seem to take over.” And this sensation of compulsion is certainly experienced by the reader of the three novels so far (to my knowledge) translated (expertly) by Laura A. Wideburg into English. Here are links to my reviews of these books, together with a quotation from each review:
Good Night, My Darling. “This excellently translated, haunting novel weaves together all these elements, as the complete picture of Justine’s life and character comes into focus from all the previous hints and fragments, as she decides to take decisive action. The author deliberately does not allow the reader to sympathise with or condemn most of the characters, which gives this atmospheric and gripping book a satisfyingly unsettling air. The treatment of the police investigation into various incidents is also told with a dry humour and a rather different perspective from the way in which the police are usually portrayed in crime novels.”
The Shadow in the Water, “a very disturbing novel, clouded and obscured by perceptions and suspicions so that nothing is what it seems. I admire the translator, Laura Wideburg, for so ably conveying the many subtleties of atmosphere and character. Both this novel and its predecessor [Good Night My Darling] won the Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year for the years in which they were first published (1998 and 2005), and I can see why. The Shadow in the Water is even less of a comfortable read than its predecessor, in showing the nasty things that go on under the surface of apparently ordinary, small-town lives.”
Island of the Naked Women. (Not connected to the previous two novels.) “I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which is a strong candidate for my “best of” list for this year. As well as the satisfying “on the surface” mystery, there is an allegorical aspect to the story, which gives it a haunting quality. The island of the naked women (Shame Island) is where legend has it that, in the olden days, wives from the village who had been unfaithful to their husbands were sent, naked, to fend for themselves. It is presumed they starved. The wives in the story told in the book live in more enlightened times, but is their fate any better than that of their historical counterparts?”
More about the author and her excellent books can be found at her website. Unfortunately this site is not very up-to-date, but I hope we will be able to read more of her work soon.
Three other authors who write similar books and whom I’d recommend? Well, Frimansson’s style is similar in some ways to the queen (in my opinion) of Swedish suspense (!):
Karin Alvtegen, a wonderful author of psychological thrillers. My reviews of three of these, Missing, Betrayal and Shadow, are at Euro Crime. If you haven’t read her, all I can do is to urge you to do so! (But be warned, her books are very bleak.) About her latest book, A Probable Story (not yet translated): “Once again, Karin Alvtegen has proven her skills in telling a story with many depths. It is in many ways a display of human behavior, her characters struggling with their personal demons. It becomes obvious that the behavior we try to hide inside of us becomes instead the inner driving force of our lives. The compelling psychological drama keeps the reader captured to the end.” This passage summarises rather well the genre of “psychological suspense” which, when done well, I enjoy very much.
Camilla Ceder, who I’ve mentioned before in this series, is another Swedish author of psychological crime, though as yet has had only one book translated into English (Frozen Moment). From the author’s website: “With a background in social work and psychotherapy, Ceder brings new perspectives to the Swedish crime genre. She empathizes her characters more than the crimes that they commit (or investigate), and the social and mental mechanisms of the southwestern countryside have become her turf.”
Diane Janes is another author I’ve mentioned in this series. Her second novel, Why Don’t You Come For Me?, is a great little example of a psychological suspense novel in which the author, like Frimansson and Alvtegen, is not afraid to follow her premise to its logical conclusion, however bleak.