Thursday, December 26, 2019

Audio: "Fire Witness" by Lars Kepler

Audio: Fire Witness by Lars Kepler, 2011 (for Sweden, I think), 2018 (maybe, Overdirve gives goody dates that don't always match pub dates), downloaded form Wisconsin Digital Library.

I read a couple recommendations for the latest Kepler book so I took this one. Nordic crime and police procedural written by a husband and wife team. Native Finn Joona Linna is a Swedish cop on a task force that handles murders nationwide. He investigates a double murder and the resultant kidnapping of a 5-year-old.

The novel's writing has that Nordic matter-of-fact style. Different than a noir-style with straightforward facts with minimal description. The characters go through emotional troubles but the authors don't dwell on emotion in the same way as writers in traditional Anglo countries. People are sad, terrified, lonely, and in love but the vibe is different. I feel the same when reading the Swede series by Henning Mankell (1 read), Sjowall and Wahloo (most read), Jens Lapidus (4 read).

Anyhoo. This is the third novel in the series and Joona has been suspended since the last novel because he is suspected of telling some crooks/political troublemakers that a police raid was coming. Joona's boss asks Joona to go north where a home for troubled teens has had a double murder with a teenager and adult counselor beaten to death. Joona will have no legal authority, he's just there to guide and help.

Things happen. The local investigator is grouchy and doesn't know he is out of his depth. Joona is endlessly polite but won't be stopped or dissuaded. The teen girls at the home have some serious issues and don't cooperate with interviews. The therapist husband of the dead woman is deeply distressed and put under psychiatric care. A fake medium in Stockholm starts seeing a "ghost" and thinks the ghost is the victim come to tell the Stockholm woman what happened.

Joona starts hunting down a missing 15-year-old from the home. That girl's room has lots of bllod evidence and the teen ran into the woods sometime in the early morning of the murder.. The teen then chanced upon a car and stole the car when the driver was taking a piss break. Inside the car is a 5-year-old boy. Both teen suspect and boy go missing.

There are forensic investigations of the crime scene and forensic  psychology. Joona wants to stay on scene but has no local authority and wants to chase the girl down. The local cop is a jackass. Joona is worried for the missing boy. So on and So forth with Joona driving around rural and urban Sweden.

The story was a good one and the characters interesting. The novel touches on a few tropes and genres but always it's own thing. There is:
  • Renegade cop who doesn't follow orders. 
  • Out-of-town expert cop who is shunned by local cops. 
  • The sad, mourning cop missing his long lost family and partner and unable to commit to a new woman. 
  • Troubled teen on the run.
  • Serial killer that his hidden the crimes within everyday life events.
Initially I kept expecting story to end soon as the chase for the 15-year-old was on. Then saw I was only halfway through the novel. The killer is an easy guess. The detective's pursuit is enjoyable.

1. Rich people being uber rich. Reminded me of the Jens Lapidus novels of rich people who are awful, awful people but always getting away with murder.
2. Poor children being abandoned. (Reminded me of the ultra right assholes who blame immigrants for everything. As if white people don't kill, cheat, steal, and rape.)
3. A subplot about Joona's family that is fairly unbelievable subplot. The subplot has Joona solving a serial killer case in a previous book. The serial killer is in prison but threatens Joona's family. Joona's former partner and family end up dead so Joona sends his wife and daughter, fakes their deaths, and with promises to never contact one another. Ditching his wife and daughter instead of fleeing with them? Man, I call bullshit.

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