Book review: Some Kind of Peace by Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff

Some Kind of Peace
by Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff
translated by Paul Norlen
Simon & Schuster 2012
First published in Sweden 2009

Some Kind of Peace is an atmospheric, well-written book. Yet it demands, almost, ambivalence from the reader in continually challenging us with the characters and their behaviour, as well as the way the authors present the crime part of the plot.

Siri Bergman is a psychologist. She’s depressed after the death of her partner Stefan some years previously, living alone in the remote seaside cottage which they bought together because of Stefan’s love of diving. Siri is a nervous, anxious person terrified of the dark, so sleeps with all the lights on. Nevertheless, she does not use curtains or blinds for her windows, it seems.

Siri practices with two colleagues, her best friend Aina and an older man, Sven, who has previously lost his university professorship for having an affair with a student (he’s married to another professor, of gender studies, an ironic touch), so has now turned to private practice. Both Sven and Aina are sex addicts.

Part of the book takes the form of Siri’s therapy sessions with her patients, and these are perhaps the best-described and most interesting sections. Another part is a “mind of the killer” theme, in which someone is stalking Siri, intending to cause her pain and harm. This threat escalates from some nasty tricks on Siri, to the extent that one of her patients is found dead on the shore by the cottage, in circumstances that point suspicion at Siri. The police become involved, and it becomes clear that the stalker is someone who has access to Siri’s patient records – in fact he (or she) may even be one of her other patients. The tension escalates as Siri attempts to live her life while pondering on who might be obsessed with her and wish to cause her harm. A very lonely woman, she becomes attracted to a young policeman who is working on the case.

I found Some Kind of Peace a frustrating book: sometimes sophisticated, sometimes over-simple. It is well written, and in many places intelligent and absorbing. The crime plot, however, is unpleasant as I do not like reading about the point of view of someone who abuses and exploits vulnerable women. Some of Siri’s behaviour seems incomprehensible for someone under threat, and her passivity towards a couple of men who make unwelcome passes to her during the book seems at odds with other times when she is very direct in conversation. Her loneliness is very well-conveyed, as she attempts to come to terms with a double loss in her past. Yet the outcome of the crime plot, when we learn the identity of the stalker, is one of those “pick one from the cast of characters” let-downs.

I bought this book.

Read other reviews of it at: S. Krishna’s books, Publisher’s Weekly and The Eloquent Page.

About the book at the publisher’s website.

16 thoughts on “Book review: Some Kind of Peace by Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff

  1. Sounds like a book with a mix of good and bad points. The remoteness of Siri’s location reminds me a bit of Ruth Galloway’s house in Elly Griffith’s books. I have this book on my shelf so am looking forward to reading it and seeing what it does for me.

  2. You had me going here until I read “point of view of someone who abuses and exploits vulnerable women.” Nope. I dislike that intensely. In fact, I usually don’t like to read any of the perpetrators’ points of view, especially of violence against people. So I guess I will put this on my third TBR list when the others have been completed — in about 2015. I enjoyed the review though.

    • Yes, and odd to me that this book is written by two women (sisters). I think it pushed the “women as passive victims of men who stalk them” theme too much, as several characters suffer from this abuse.

  3. Maxine – Thanks very much for this thoughtful and candid review. An excellent job as ever. I agree with you completely that the therapy sessions are very well-depicted and so is the remote location of Bergman’s home. One of the other things I like very much about this novel is the friendship between Bergman and Aina Davidson.
    I’m not usually much of a one for the “criminal’s thoughts in italics” and I agree with you that that aspect of the novel wasn’t really appealing for me. Neither were some of the things the stalker does (I can’t help it; I’m an animal lover). So I understand that aspect of your frustration with the novel. I am curious about where the authors take the Siri Bergman character in the next novel though, just to see what happens.

    • Thanks for reminding me, Margot, I should have put in a warning for pet lovers, who might not like this book. It was a funny read in that some of it was so interesting and some, frankly, naff — I wonder if this is a result of the dual authorship?

      • Maxine – Oh, now that is an interesting question about dual authorship! I know from having written a few things myself as part of a team that it isn’t easy to co-ordinate everything so it reads smoothly. You may have a point there.

  4. Interesting to see your thoughts on this. I’ve just finsihed it myself & can agree with most of what you’ve said. I didn’t find Siri very sympathetic and her attitude could be very frustrating! I would add that I felt the story about Siri’s husband was going somewhere but felt that petered out.

    • Thanks, Suzi. I am still intrigued by her, enough to see what is going on with her in the next book, now that she is through her ordeal(s).

  5. Interesting review Maxine, You mention that some of Siri’s behaviour seems
    incomprehensible. From a psychological perspective (and one of the authors
    is a psychotherpist )that is precisely the point.Siri is under considerable stress
    and anxiety ,and her mind/brain is not working ‘properly ‘—hence the erratic seemingly
    incomprehensible behaviour.
    As for the darker side of the perpetrator’s psyche. I am prepared to accept this in
    a crime novel ,provided it has a purpose and is not gratuitous.

    • I’m sure you are right, Simon, though not sure that the book got the Siri-Sven dynamics right. Bascially, I just don’t like reading books about males stalking (etc) women, just not my thing. No disrespect to the book, but I did think the “crime plot resolution” weak.

  6. I had this one on my wishlist but have removed it now…while it obviously has good points there’s enough about your review that makes me think I’d rather read something else. And it’s not like I’m running short of recommendations 🙂

  7. Pingback: Some Kind of Peace by Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff | Petrona Book Reviews archive

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