Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Golden Calf, by Helene Tursten

Soho Crime, 2013
340 pp
originally published as Guldkalven, 2033
translated by Laura A. Wideburg


I've been a huge fan of Helene Tursten's Irene Huss novels since I picked up the first book in the series.  My favorite of the series is her third book, The Torso, an excellent novel that not only satisfies in terms of the crime and its twisted solution, but also because it is extremely well written.  Now here we are at book six (fifth to be translated), and I have to say I'm a wee bit disappointed, most decidedly because of the ending.  Up to that point, she had me hanging on to the story's every word and then out of nowhere comes this ending that did not at all fit.

Together with friend and partner Tommy Persson, Detective Inspector Irene Huss is on the scene of a particularly brutal murder in a magnificent home overlooking the bay.  The dead man is Kjell Bengtsson Ceder, a restauranteur who is also in the hotel business. Shot at point-blank range, he leaves behind a beautiful young wife, Sanna, and a baby.  Kjell's name has come up with the police before in connection with a tragic boating accident which led to the death of his first wife. There is enough to link the killing of Ceder with a double homicide under investigation as well as to another unsolved missing persons case the police have already worked on. When the detectives put their heads together, the common denominator of all of these incidents turns out to be Sanna, via an earlier  IT business that crashed when the bubble burst. The problem is that Sanna is not being exactly up front with the police, and nothing the detectives do can persuade her to tell all she knows.   Hopefully, the police will be able to convince her before someone else is found dead.

Aside from the already-known crew of detectives and Huss' family, Tursten has done an especially fine job in building the key player Sanna.  She comes across as a spoiled,  pampered, newly-rich but clueless person, and her character remains consistent throughout the book.  Another quality I admired in this novel was the pacing.  It was plotted carefully so as to continue to add layer upon layer of suspense, so that the reader is very much drawn into the story and can't wait to find out all of the answers and get to the big reveal.  At that point is where I started having problems.  Here I am, majorly invested in this story, and it all goes a bit sideways with the rather (imho) flimsy ending that I thought sort of came out of left field.  The ride was both fun and kept me completely involved while it lasted, but really, I think she could have done much better in bringing  the mysteries to a close.

The book is being well received by many readers, with many 4 and 5 star ratings, and had the ending been stronger, I probably would have rated it up there as well.  As happy as I am that Soho Crime is publishing Tursten's previously-untranslated novels,  Helene Tursten's work is so much better than this book might acknowledge.  I would love to see her get back to that same level of  intensity that gave me so much pleasure in the first three translated novels   -- Detective Inspector Huss, The Torso, and The Glass Devil.

 crime fiction from Sweden


  1. Nancy - I'm sorry to hear that for you, this one didn't live up to some of the others. I've had that happen to me, too. I'll be really interested to see what happens as this series continues...

    1. Oh we'll, what can you do? I'll keep buying them as long as they continue to be translated. I haven't picked up a crime novel for a long time so it was a little bit of a let down coming back. Oh well!!

  2. I hate to write anything that's a spoiler to anyone who hasn't yet read this book, but are you talking about your disappointment in what forces are at the bottom of the murders? It was a convenient culprit. I agree with that. If you want to discuss this more, email me.

    I would have preferred a different solution. I actually saw this one coming as I was wondering who would have poured so much money into the and who would have started gunning down those who cheated him in execution-style? It seemed kind of obvious and the family links were clearly pointing in a certain direction, even stereotyping certain members.

    I liked the book anyway. I like Irene Huss. She is unlike many detectives with their alcohol problems, social dysfunction, inability to have relationships, surly tempers, depression, etc. She's healthy, warm, sane, rational and has a happy home life.

    1. Yes, Kathy, that's exactly my issue with the ending. I agree -- too convenient. There was at least one more avenue she could have gone down (and I won't say what). As I said, I liked this one up to the ending, so I didn't have a problem until then. I love these books as a whole -- but this one made me feel sort of cheated.

  3. Arnaldur Indridason wrote about a financial scam and murder in Black Skies, which was more cleverly done and didn't stereotype anyone, except maybe financial wheelers and dealers.

    Perhaps Thurston should have taken a page from his solution.

    Anyway, I still like the Huss character, team and family.

    I'm now trying to decipher The Sea Detective, well-liked by some bloggers, and I'm working at it.

    1. I have that one here (Sea Detective) -- looks interesting.

  4. Interesting. I actually liked this book quite a bit more than the previous one. I tend not to read as much for plot as for characters and themes and just generally being carried along for an interesting ride, so the ending didn't bother me. I found I liked the way the scope kept rippling outward.

    1. It's interesting the way different people approach different authors. For example, with Camilleri, I don't read so much for plot but rather to see what's up with Inspector Montalbano, but in all other cases, it's generally down to the plotting and the solution.


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