Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Glass Devil, by Helene Tursten

Soho Press, 2007
originally published as Glasdjävulen, 2003
translated by Katarina E. Tucker
311 pp
(trade paper ed.)

The Glass Devil  is the final translated installment of Helene Tursten's series to feature Detective Inspector Irene Huss; fortunately, according to com  she has another five books already written, hopefully waiting to be translated. (Dear Soho Press: hint hint wink wink.)  This is a most excellent series; while the previous book The Torso  was my favorite of the four, The Glass Devil is also quite good, and here Tursten takes a bit of a different tack in storytelling, focusing much more on the work of Irene Huss and less on the usual Göteborg team effort or on family life than in her previous novels.

On a cold March night, a young schoolteacher, Jonas Schyttelius, drives up to his cottage, removes his gym bag, lunch box and groceries from his car, and walks into his house. Out of nowhere, a shot rings out and he's dead. Not far away, his mother and father, the rector in a church in the small community of Kullahult, are also killed in the same way.   At both crime scenes a pentagram, painted with the victims' blood, is left behind on the victims' computers.  The Violent Crimes Unit is called in on the case, with very little to go on.  They interview a circle of people acquainted with the pastor, unearthing very little in the way of motive but quite a bit in the way of nastiness as the competition heats up for the dead pastor's job; Irene also encounters a cantor whose spirituality takes more of a new-age format.  What she manages to find out is that Jonas has a sister, Rebecka, living in London, to whom the family had once turned for research on Satanists; now Irene wonders if Rebecka is also in danger since the murderer seems to have focused his attacks on the Schyttelius family.  Even if she  is not, she may be able to shed some light on the killer's motives, which remain unknown.   The problem is that Rebecka has had a nervous breakdown and is unable to come to Sweden.  Irene decides that she must go to London to get any help she can in the hope of solving this most baffling  case.

The story moves along at a brisk pace, with very little going on in the Huss homefront. The biggest problem facing Irene and her family this time is the death of a neighbor's cat by their dog.  On the work side, the team is caught up in other crimes, leaving Irene to work mainly by herself on the Schyttelius case until she reaches London, where she meets her counterpart Glen Thompson. There are also some tempting red herrings scattered here and there, but what it comes down to are two very intriguing mysteries:  first, who killed Jonas and his parents and why, and second, why is Rebecka's business colleague trying to thwart Irene's attempts at talking to her? 

As intense a read as this book is, as chilling and bleak as the ride is to the end turns out to be, there is a moment when the show is practically given away, or at the very least, where anyone following along closely enough might be able to figure out what's going on.  Although this may be a bit frustrating, it's certainly not a deal breaker because there is enough left for the reader to still try to put it all together.  What comes out of this story is so heartbreaking that this early nod  toward the solution doesn't even scratch the surface of the ultimate revelations to be found in this tragedy. 

There are some books where the author asks you to consider certain underlying questions, and this is one of those. First there is the nature of justice;  second, the workings of fate; but most importantly, the blinding nature of evil in its most fundamental form.   Irene Huss says it all here:

"A glass devil is a person in whom evil becomes transparent. People simply don't see it, despite the fact that it's there all the time."
Another of Tursten's novels that is decidedly not for weak hearts or fitting fare for people who need an uplifting ending,  I definitely recommend The Glass Devil, as well as all of the books in the Inspector Huss series. I just love these books!


  1. I enjoyed this one too Nancy
    BTW have you caught up with changes to the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival?

  2. Thanks, Kerrie -- I' m a bit embarrassed not to have contributed for some time!

    1. I have enjoyed the Irene Huss books, but am finding it impossible to get into Night Rounds. The writing doesn't pull me in nor the story. It just doesn't seem as well-written as the other books in the series.

    2. My only complaint about the series is that Tursten needs to tighten things up so that it's not as easy to figure things out so far in advance. Considering how intelligent the Goteborg police are, the mistake the squad made doesn't make sense.


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