I have just finished reading my first Scandinavian thriller. It is called The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe, due to be published on September 8th.
This is what I thought about it…
With the marketing firmly aimed at ‘fans of Jo Nesbo and The Bridge’, perhaps I was taking a risk with this book because I have never read any Scandinavian thrillers before, so I can’t say whether this is a good example of the genre or not.
Just about the only bit of the publicity I agree with is that it is disturbing. I would not describe it as fast-paced though. Really it took about 200 pages to get going, by which point I did want to know how it panned out, mostly to find out if my guess about the ending would be correct. Which, disappointingly, it was. The pre-publication publicity made claims about it having a final twist ‘you won’t see coming’ in the plot so I was looking forward to a dramatic last-page revelation that never arrived.
At first I found the format more than a bit confusing. The whole book is in the first person, but that person keeps changing between three main characters. Each chapter is from the point of view of a different person to the previous chapter, two of them in the present and the third in the past, but even within each chapter the characters all dwell on the past a lot so a lot of it is in flashback.
And everybody is so miserable and messed up. I spent some time in the Stockholm area working, and always found everybody to be quite cheerful. Has the Swedish national psyche changed so much in the last twenty years?
Anyway, I stuck with it and about halfway through I had adjusted to the format and did want to know how it ended, but I think I would have enjoyed the book more if the claims about it had not been so bold. If you are going to promise a ‘twist you won’t see coming’ and then put in a twist that most people will see coming then you are over-promising and under-delivering.
If most Scandinavian thrillers are full of unhappy, neurotics who dwell on past miseries at great length, and you like them, then I am sure you will love this.