Wednesday, March 2, 2016

THE VIPER slithered right past my series-in-order-ONLY reflex, left good Scandicrime satisfaction


Minotaur Books
$7.99 Kindle edition, available now

Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Arvid Traneus returns to Sweden following a lengthy assignment in Tokyo. He is a consultant for a major company, a sort of modern day-warrior in the service of the global economy. He is successful, but also ruthless, some would say brutal.

He returns home to his estate in Levide on the island of Gotland where his wife is waiting for him. Or where he thinks she'll be waiting for him. But all is not as he left it. "Time waits for no man", as his closest neighbor puts it.

Four days after Arvid's return, the family maid discovers two dead bodies on the living room floor - a man and a woman. At first, the police assume it to be Arvid and his wife, but once they manage to identify the badly disfigured man it turns out to be Arvid's cousin, while Arvid himself has disappeared without a trace.
Håkan Östlundh is back with the fourth installment in the series about Fredrik Broman and his colleagues at the Visby police department. As in his previous books - Sea Wrack, The Diver, and Terror - The Viper takes place on the idyllic but isolated island of Gotland, where escaping one s past often proves more difficult than in the city.

My Review: It's very rare that I'll jump into an ongoing series anywhere but at book #1. This case was an exception because:
He was hovering in darkness, dangling weightlessly in somethingthat was beyond night. The world had no beginning, no end. Perhaps this dense blackness was in fact nothingness. And yet he was there, conscious that he was in motion, rocking through space. Or through nothingness.
Help me, I'm falling into book #4 in a series and I can't get up! Per Carlsson, the translator, had quite a lot of talent on display for rendering Swedish into English mellifluously. The book's reading quality is excellent from beginning to end.

The Traneus family is a horrorshow. Think Jerry Springer meets Breaking Bad. Reading about the fractured, wretched people made me feel normal, and that's quite a feat. As is ordinary for me and Scandicrime, it got to be a bit more than I really wanted to handle several times. What was not ordinary is that I couldn't stop reading because it was such a rich, delicious dessert for my starved pretty-prose brain locus.

That did not keep my inner bookkeeper from tallying the dropped story-lines and conveniently vanishing characters. Yes, the book was a pleasure to read, but the loose ends weren't really dealt with adequately, and the coda that takes place in Arvid Traneus's other home, Tokyo, felt unnecessary and the motivation for it left more dangling ends than it clipped off.

The characters are all very nicely limned, even a few that have no storylines in this book (eg, Broman's wife Ninni). It's a pleasure to read that's mitigated by some either directionless or unnecessary cast members and events.

That's why I'm only giving what would normally be a full four-star or more book three and a half stars. That said, I'm planning to get the other three books before it and (hopefully) enjoy them. My suggestion is that you do the same.

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