Monday, 22 May 2017

The Frozen Woman - Jon Michelet

I don’t speak Norwegian, doubt I ever will so I am indebted to Don Bartlett, who apparently translates Jo Nesbo too, for rendering this fiction accessible to an ageing anglospeak. However I am sure my experience in reading it would have been enhanced if I could experienced the native expression. As always with a translation I feel I am getting half a book.  That is no criticism  of the translator, its just that different languages have such different idiosyncrasies.

This book has won an award for being Norway’s best crime novel. The cynics among you may pose the question, just how many crime novels does Norway have? Quite a lot in fact; NordicNoir and ScandiCrime are potent forces within the genre. The sceptics among you might enquire just why Scandinavia should merit a genre(s) of its own when other nations don’t. I think this book is a perfect example of why.

For me anyway, Nordic crime, indeed broaden that to Swedish, Danish maybe Finnish and Icelandic too, is far more cerebral in its intent. The works seldom function as pure action packed thrillers, they demand the reader pays attention and not leave all the work to the fictional detective. Is that a bit too much like hard work when you’re simply trying to enjoy a read? And is it worth it?

I liked this book but I didn’t love it. The characters were quirky, difficult to get to know. It wasn’t that they were merely functional but they seemed detached from the reader.It sometimes seemed as if they were all enjoying an ‘in’ joke that the reader wasn’t ‘in’ on!

Much of the financial, business, political and economic strands of the plot lines were lost on me but that isn’t a criticism that’s just me. The ultimate unravelling of the actual crime was clever and well constructed. I had the sense of jig saw pieces falling into place. I think there were some attempts at humour to offer some light relief in what was quite a tense story but they may have lacked impact in translation. 

Ultimately I am confused by my own reaction to this book. I can’t assert definitely exactly how I feel about it which I am finding unnerving and unusual. Certainly its worthwhile and I’m glad I read it but I’m more comfortable with the likes of Jo Nesbo and Anne Holt.

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