A new name hits the shelves of Nordic noir as Håkan Östlundh delivers THE VIPER in a smooth translation from the Swedish by Per Carlsson.
Detective Fredrik Broman is assigned the case of a horrific double murder in a farmhouse. Kristina Traneus and a male body of what is presumably her husband are discovered slashed to death. Kristina has only one wound, though gaping and fatal, but the man has been attacked so viciously that his face is unrecognizable, and identification is not certain.
When it is eventually determined that the man is not Kristina’s husband, Arvid, but the husband’s cousin, the case becomes even more complicated. Were Kristina and the cousin having an affair and the husband found out? No one can locate Arvid, and the remaining family, a son and daughter, are reluctant communicators. And then even this plausible scenario eventually becomes untenable.
Östlundh tells the story from a number of directions, and isn’t afraid to keep it moving indirectly with hints and insinuations instead of outright explication. For instance, occasional chapters tell us that Detective Broman has become injured during the course of the investigation, and other detectives visit him in hospital trying to get him to regain his memory and even his ability to speak. At other times, the text shifts to tell the story from the point of view of Kristina, Arvid or other characters.
In lesser hands, this could be confusing, but Östlundh manages to keep all the tendrils in place. His descriptions are serviceable, dialogue realistic, plotting tight, and policework seems accurate. All in all, it’s a solid crime novel, perfect for those who love the new style of Scandinavian mystery writers. —Mark Rose