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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Princess of Burundi. Kjell Eriksson. (Translated by Ebba Segerberg). Thomas Dunne Books (2006)


A low key, engrossing and sad story of a crime and its consequences. A man is reported missing and is found tortured and murdered in a park in a park. While his brother has a long criminal history the victim has been settled for a long time. At the same time Vincent Halm is planning on revenge on those who bullied him in school. The police investigation unfolds with care and attention to detail as the impact of the crime is revealed on the large cast. The setting for the story, in a Swedish city in winter is brilliantly conveyed and the large, and largely depressed cast struggle with their lives and the results of the murder. The reveals are nicely done, the conclusion is thoughtful and unforgiving.
Kjell Eriksson does not hurry the story along, it meanders along the intersecting lives of the cast all of whom seem to be having some sort of a crisis in their lives, either as a result of the murder or made worse by it. It is very striking that this cumulative weight of misery does not render the book unreadable, the cast are self aware rather than self centred. They are trying to manage their lives and this gives enough momentum to make them engaging rather than tiresome.
The police investigation and Vincent Halm's quest for revenge form the spine of the story and both are skillfully developed, they provide the context for the cast and consistently provide enough action to propel the narrative forward. The book takes the opportunities provided by the genre to travel quite widely, the author respects the genre enough to ensure that it is a very thoughtful crime story too.
This story has a quiet compelling force and a willingness to invest in its cast that make it a strongly flavoured pleasure.

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