Shadows of the past

I've found a new Nordic Noir hero, the Swedish detective, Anders Knutas. The hero of a series of novels by Mari Jungstedt, Knutas is rather more upbeat than his counterpart, Wallander, and not quite as eccentric as Inspector Van Veeteren.

Dark Angel, the sixth in the series (and the first I've read) is hugely enjoyable. When a successful party planner is murdered at a big event on the island of Gotland, there is some embarrassment - nearly every big-wig in the neighbourhood was at the party including Knutas himself. Events become more confusing though, when it appears that Algard was not the intended victim, but his mistress. What appears to be an old-fashioned murder soon turns out to have deep roots into the past.

In some ways Dark Angel was quite reminiscent of the work of the Icelandic crime writer, Arnaldur Indridason, most of whose novels deal with crime with a long history. Jungstedt manages to combine this with a contemporary feel which never feels too stuck in the past. Her characters are likeable and realistic. Starting with the 6th novel, you might think there might be some problems with lots of back story. But in fact it was ok. There was the odd chunk of back story but it was explained clearly and didn't get too much in the way of the current plot moving forward. Her characters, especially, unusually, the suspects and victims were well rounded. And it was as enjoyable a bit of Nordic Noir as you're likely to find.

Jungstedt pays tribute to Agatha Christie at several points in the text, and she is probably nearer Christie in feel than most of her Noir colleagues. Although you could never say that murder is pleasant there's none of the brutality that you would expect from Jo Nesbo, or even Henning Mankell. Nevertheless this was a well constructed thriller, and I'll definitely be spending more time in the company of Anders Knutas and his sidekick, Karin Jacobsson.


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