Book review: Night Rounds by Helene Tursten

Night Rounds
by Helene Tursten
translated by Laura A. Wideburg
Soho Crime, 2012 (first published 1999)
Irene Huss #2

The Lowander Institute is a crumbling private hospital in Goteborg, Sweden – not only is the fabric of the building falling to pieces but the number of patients is rapidly declining over time. One night, there is a power cut, which causes a crisis for one of the patients in intensive care who is recovering from an operation as the standby generator in the basement did not work. A nurse is found, lying dead, on the generator – which is subsequently found to have been sabotaged.

Criminal Inspector Irene Huss and her colleagues are called in: the novel tells the story of the case as the police search for a motive and evidence that might lead to a perpetrator. Although the detectives uncover plenty of information, it is impossible for them to tell which of it is relevant to the crime, particularly when other bad deeds become apparent.

The bulk of the novel follows the established trajectory of this series, as the team of cops meets every morning to assess progress in the case and to assign tasks for the next day. Irene and her colleagues talk to witnesses who believe that the criminal is the ghost of a nurse who hanged herself many years ago in the attic there, and who is now said to undertake her “night rounds” between midnight and one in the morning, which is the time when the murder occurred.

The other familiar element of the novel is the window it presents into Irene’s domestic life and issues with her chef husband Krister, twin daughters, and dog Sammie. Several aspects slot into place, as the two novels in the series subsequent to this one have been translated some time ago. Irene herself is a woman thankfully immune to fashion and trends, so she often feels dowdy compared with some of her glossy interviewees, and indeed is quite susceptible (in theory) to the handsomer of the male ones.

Night Rounds is, as can be expected from Helene Tursten, a good, solid police procedural that holds up well in the 13 years since it was first published in Swedish. The ending is a little ham-fisted and the essence of the story lacks the punch of some of the other books, though like the others, the crime is rooted in the past so the fascinating uncovering of old events and passions forms an integral part of the narrative. The book is an engaging read and no doubt will be enjoyed by those who, like myself, are very fond of Irene Huss as a realistic, independent character juggling personal and professional demands. Laura A. Wideburg, who has previously translated novels by Inger Frimansson, has done an excellent job here in conveying the story in colloquial (American English) prose.

I purchased this book. It is one of the titles eligible for the CWA International Dagger award for 2012.

The Irene Huss series in order: Detective Inspector Huss (#1), Night Rounds (#2), The Torso (#3) and The Glass Devil (#4). (Click on title for my review.)

Other reviews of Night Rounds: Murder by Type, International Noir Fiction (a comparison of the book with the TV film), Scandinavian Crime Fiction (Barbara Fister), Kirkus Reviews and The Crime Segments (a combination review with Detective Inspector Huss).