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Monday, August 12, 2013

Savage Spring. Mons Kallentoft. Neil Smith (translation). Hodder 2013

Good plot mechanics are not enough to rescue the book from an un-engaging cast and a very intrusive writing style. A bomb blast in the Swedish town of Linkoping kills two small girls and gravely injuries their mother. The blast took place at an ATM and the first possibility is that the attack is a terrorist one. Detective Inspector Malin Fors has to deal with the intrusion of the very secretive Swedish Security Police into the investigation. The terrorist angle is supported by  unfolding events only later do other possibilities emerge. The investigation becomes smaller and considerably darker as it follows the appalling trail left by unfettered greed and poisonous vanity. Mailn Fors has a domestic crisis to deal with as the death of her mother allows a long held secret to come into the light.
The bare bones of the story are very good, the investigation is thoughtful and competent, the set-ups are well done and the reveals are, mostly, well executed. The significant problem that the book has is the way that Mons Kallentoft bludgeons the reader with a brutally intrusive style of writing that leaves no room for the reader to engage with the cast on their own terms. The reader is instructed and directed as to the correct response and the over wrought responses of the cast make the story very heavy going. This would be bearable if the cast had the strength to stand by themselves, unfortunately they do not, they are too busy being puppets for the all too visible author.
Malin Fors has the potential to be an interesting and engaging lead character, a single mother with an alcohol abuse problem that is under supervision, she is a committed and thoughtful investigator. She is also fantastically high maintenance for a reader, she is a  constant spin cycle of emotions and responses, which are thrust at the reader as proof of the fact that she is wonderful. The rest of the cast have a rather strange protective attitude to her, which does her no good. She is denied any real independence because the author appears to be so busy winding her up and watching her go.
The rest of the cast operate under the same difficult circumstances, including the ghosts of the murdered girls who appear as a pointless chorus to review the action. The supporting cast, outside the investigation, are operatic in the worst possible sense, burning with a shrill melodrama that robs them of the weight the plot offers them.
The plot is by far the best part of the story, it is tense, gripping and pitch black, it is a shame that it is thrown away by such a heavy handed execution.

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