Monday, March 3, 2014

Killer's IslandKiller's Island by Anna Jansson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The story of Anna Jansson's "Killer's Island" takes place in and around the town of Visby on the picturesque Swedish island of Gotland. The story begins when three men attack a boy, and Detective Inspector Maria Wern unsuccessfully tries to stop the assault. She is severely beaten and injected with possibly infected blood, and the boy dies in the hospital. The plot includes two more killings, and Maria and her colleagues work on finding the connections and solving the cases.

It could have been a pretty good story, but to me it is almost totally ruined by severe implausibility and less than stellar writing. I understand this is the eleventh novel in a series and the author is trying to juggle life stories of the series' characters and link them to the current plot. The main aspect of the novel's implausibility is that there are too many connections between the characters. Many of them - the police, the doctors and nurses, the victims - even seem to live in the same neighborhood and know each other in person. Of course, there are deeper connections too, and they are quite bothersome. They rob the novel of any authenticity and cause it to read as a tedious plot construction exercise instead.

Ms. Jansson abuses an incredibly crude writing device. For instance, a suspected criminal is described by a witness to "walk with a stiff gait". A few pages later, another person is interviewed at the police station and when the interview is over and the person is leaving, "his joints seem stiff". This lame trick is used repeatedly throughout the entire novel. I'd much prefer Ms. Jansson to write "Look! Here's a clue!"

The novel has some strangeness that I have enjoyed as I love to be surprised when an author bends and mixes literary genres and styles; some fragments in the beginning of the book read like an interesting medical story. Ms. Jansson has been a nurse for most of her life (she apparently still works as one, part time), so when she writes about medical issues, it comes through authentic and interesting. It is the crime story that is quite lacking. So I am adding a half of a star for genre bending.

One and a half stars.

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