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).

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21 thoughts on “Book review: Night Rounds by Helene Tursten

  1. I am glad to read this very positive review. Although I am a big fan of Irene Huss and raced through the previous three books, I could not get into this book and it became a DNF. Maybe I’ll try again. Something in the hospital setting and the “ghost” of a nurse put me off, as I shy away from these elements — except for Asa Larsson’s brilliant Until Thy Wrath Be Past.

    • I admit to being very fond of Irene, she’s one of my favourite fictional characters though not as much as Annika! It was not as good as the other Irene novels in my opinion (possibly why not translated previously) but it hangs together pretty well, and the supernatural elements are just in various people’s minds. The hospital setting was quite a good early (written in 1999) take on privately owned hospitals and how they are not always in the patients’ best interests because of economics – both medically and in terms of their general care and safety. There is also quite a good “pro homeless/mentally ill people” subplot.

  2. Maxine, my understanding was that Night Rounds is #4 in the series after Torso and Glass Devil. Am I wrong? Or were they published out of order?

    • Yes, they have been translated out of order, Jose Ignacio – although only just published, Night Rounds is the second in the series (according to Euro Crime and Wikipedia!).

  3. Maxine – An excellent review, for which thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed this one. One of the things I liked about it was the hospital atmosphere; I thought Tursten did that quite well. And although I agree with you about the ending, I also continue to like the way Tursten ties the pieces of a novel together in a logical way. Also, I’m glad you’ve mentioned the translation. The dialogue flows smoothly and even the humour comes through – not an easy task.

    • It is very different from English English, and as an editor I am hypersensitive to it. But for a translated work, it seems just as artificial, in principle, to read US or English English – in the case of Tursten’s books, she does not have an English publisher so for us Brits it is the US edition or nothing.

  4. Thanks for this Maxine. I have only skim read the review as I have it on my TBR list and will probably read it in the next week or so. I’ll come back and comment after reading it.

  5. I read the first in the series ages ago and have a vague memory of it being rather dry. But I’m tempted by this one after reading your review, Maxine!

    • I think that’s a fair comment, Sharon, they are a bit dry. That’s OK for me, though. I think The Torso is the best of the four I’ve read, but the first one (Det Insp Huss) has some excellent elements and a couple of really poetic sections.

  6. You have JUST saved me from another out-of-order reading, as I was just literally about to start The Torso as what I understood as per Amazon to be #2 – will get this one instead, thanks!

    • It is always a good idea to check the Euro Crime listing before reading, as they are always listed in correct order, there. I’ve been rescued a few times by that site!

      • I was going to suggest Fantastic Fiction as an alternative to Euro Crime then noticed that they messed up with this one, listing Night Rounds as the 4th in the series. But to their credit they do show that Gold Digger (apparently #5 on everybody’s list) is coming in 2013). All that aside, I am going to pass on this one for a couple of reasons. I read the other 3 books, enjoyed the first two, but felt that the last (The Glass Devil) was a real clunker, and secondly I find it very annoying that a publisher has chosen to skip over a book in the middle of a series and then come back to it following a long gap, 4 – 5 years, since the last book. Rather inconsiderate of the reader and a bit manipulative knowing that #5 is now in the works.

        • I don’t think you’ll lose anything by skipping this one, Ken – I was irritated, too, that the publisher translated them in this silly order, and with the gap you mention – I had forgotten most of the minutiae of Irene’s life and the various cops’ dilemmas by the time I read this. Also, it is very old now so has dated a bit – not the author’s fault in any of these cases.

          Fantastic Fiction is a good site but it does regularly get orders wrong, I think because it relies on translation and not published (orginally) order. Euro Crime is more accurate as long as the author falls into the site’s remit. I’ll see if Karen will start an “International Dagger” winner’s page. The CWA website is good on all the Dagger winners (as one would hope!) – it provides the shortlists for all awards and the comments from the judges about why the books were chosen for the shortlist concerned. The archive goes back a few years, too.

  7. Maxine: One of the coincidences of life. I finished Detective Inspector Huss last night. I have decided to hold off reading your review until I read Night Rounds which is on my crowded desk.

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