Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Room No. 10Room No. 10 by Åke Edwardson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The setup of Ake Edwardson’s “Room No. 10” is intriguing. A 29-year-old woman is found hanged in room No. 10 of a hotel in Gothenburg, Sweden. Chief Inspector Erik Winter leads the investigation. 18 years earlier, in one of his first cases, he was investigating a disappearance of a 29-year-old woman who visited the same room in this hotel before she vanished.

The plot moves quite slowly, which I like a lot. Reading most mysteries and thrillers these days feels like one were watching a movie at triple speed. The plot here moves with a normal, life-like speed. Unfortunately, the quiet pacing and good writing are marred by the book's excessive length. It is not that the writing contains redundant and irrelevant fluff, as it often happens even to famous mystery writers. Most sentences in the book are not space fillers; they serve some purpose: characterization, mood creation, building tension. The novel is too long because Mr. Edwardson decided to embellish the solid and engrossing 350 pages with some ridiculous “twists and turns” in the last 100 pages. So three-fourth of the plot delivers, but the denouement does not. Maybe there is no easy and elegant way out of the complicated structure of the plot events?

The Erik Winter mysteries form a series with recurring characters. Most authors of such series tend to repeat details of characterizations in each book. Mr. Edwardson manages to avoid that tired trick. For instance, without reading previous books in the series, one would not necessarily know that Agneta Djanali is a black Swedish detective. That's how it should be; why would anyone want to read the same fragments of prose over and over again?

The writing and translation are quite accomplished, except for the irritatingly numerous repetitions of the "No. Yes. No. Yes." phrase. Without the contrived and annoying ending, "Room No. 10" would deserve an at least three-star rating. Alas, I can rate it only with

Two and a half stars.

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