18 December 2012

Review: LETHAL INVESTMENTS, Kjell Ola Dahl

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 547 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber Crime (September 1, 2011) - first published in Swedish 1993
  • Translated from Swedish by Don Bartlett
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005CG8IA6
  • Source: I bought it
Synopsis (Amazon)

An apartment building. A woman clearing up the mess her three-year-old son has made on the stairway. A child staring into an open doorway. The naked leg of a woman sticking out of that doorway. Blood. A woman's scream.

Reidun Rosendal's murder presents Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frolich with their most intriguing case yet. And the mystery deepens when the chief suspect, Reidun's lover, is also found murdered.

As the investigation proceeds the focus shifts to Reidun's place of work, Software Partners, where the business and the private lives of the characters intermesh in ways that become lethal.

K. O. Dahl's stories are propelled by compelling narratives where the final twist is always satisfying.

My take

LETHAL INVESTMENTS published nearly 20 years ago (1993) and has only recently been published in English. The first of the Frohlich series, it introduces Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frolich. Gunnarstranda is the older man, a bit of a bulldog once he has his teeth into a case, but also the one who worries at the evidence, trying to work out the sequence of events. The duo reminded me a bit of Dalziel and Pascoe from P.D. James, or A.C. Baantjer's DeKok and Vledder.

Once Gunnarstranda, recently widowed, is on the trail he seems to persist beyond above the call of duty:
    Frank [Frohlich] stared at him. The older policeman with the cigarette and coffee cup had blue bags under his eyes. The thread-like hair lay in unruly tufts across his balding head, his coat was creased and his face sallow under the grey stubble.
So here is another Swedish police procedural and you are probably thinking you don't need to read another. I really enjoyed the way the reader is made privy to the detectives' deductive processes. Gunnarstranda forces Frohlich to explore with him possible scenarios to fit the evidence, putting themselves in the roles of victim and perpetrator, thinking their way through how and why things have happened as they did.

Another of things I really liked about the style of this novel is the almost shorthand descriptive passages:
    The light from the windows fell on two other desks. On one there was a white strip of paper taped to the side of the telephone. Reidun Rosendal’s. Her name in neat blue writing. Small flattened loops between the curves. Her place, he thought, and sat down. Opened the drawers. Examined them without finding anything of interest. They were empty. No engagement diary. No personal papers. Just loose pens, a coloured ribbon for a printer and some files. An empty Coke bottle rolling around in the bottom drawer when he opened it. On top, under glass, a passport-size photograph. He lifted the sheet of glass, coaxed the picture out and studied it. Black and white photograph. Face in half-profile. A blonde leaning back, tossing her hair while looking in the mirror. Self-satisfied expression. A woman who liked what she saw in the mirror. But she was young.
The novel gives us yet another view of Swedish society at the end of the twentieth century. LETHAL INVESTMENTS is in part about the sort of get-rich-quick schemes that characterised that time.

My rating: 4.5

See another review by Laura Root at EuroCrime

About the Author
Kjell Ola Dahl was born in Norway in 1958 and lives with his wife and children in Feirng, near Oslo. His first novel, Dødens investeringer (Lethal Investments), was published in Norway in 1993. The Fourth Man marked his first publication in English in 2007.  

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