Fossum and Cotterill: tales of contrast

The two books I’ve recently reviewed for Euro Crime are quite a contrast. Broken, by Karin Fossum, is a pared-down affair, a distillation of simple beauty.

“A long queue of people waits patiently at a door. Old and young, in small groups or alone, everyone waits silently. Every year, the author who lives in the house on the other side of the door will choose the first in line and write that person’s story. At the head of the queue is a woman carrying a baby in her arms.

But that night, the author is startled out of her sleep by a man in her room. He is from the queue, but is not first in line. He is pleading for his story to be told, believing himself to be too nondescript and insufficiently interesting ever to justify his turn. After some conversations with him, the author is, almost reluctantly, but with some strange willingness, drawn into first providing the man with a name, Alvar Eide, and then into sitting down to start his story.”  Read on here

The other book is packed with events. It’s Disco for the Departed, by Colin Cotterill. Not only is the narrative convoluted, exciting, satirical and anarchic, but the spirit world adds another dimension of confusion, plot opportunities and general mayhem.

“The third book in the series that began with THE CORONER’S LUNCH and continued with THIRTY-THREE TEETH continues our journey of discovery of a magical-realist, independently minded group of protagonists in landlocked, impoverished 1970s Laos. Dr Siri Paiboun, the country’s coroner despite being long past retirement age, together with his mortuary nurse and new tenant, Dtui, is sent into the mountains to investigate the discovery of an arm that has been found protruding from a the concrete of a path under construction. This isn’t just any path, but is part of a huge celebratory project. The caves of the mountain were used as the hiding-place of the revolutionaries who are now the rulers of the country, and are to become enshrined as a national monument complete with opening ceremony, hence the pressure is on for a fast resolution to this potential hiccup. As Siri soon finds, the caves also sheltered the then royal family, and were used to create a massive hospital during the blanket-bombing of the Vietnam war, the after-effects of which are still causing misery and suffering.” Read on here

Although they are so different in subject-matter, pace and style, both books are written by authors in confident control of their words, plots, characters, and setting. Take your pick, or read both — if you are like me, you will enjoy the experience.