Amy Nelson-Mile reads non-stop, mostly mysteries but also SF, literary works, YA, and cookbooks. When she isn’t reading and experimenting with new recipes, she works as an administrator, listens to almost all types of music, and hangs out with her husband and their two dogs and two cats in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Amy and I originally met online when she organized a speaking engagement for me that I gave via Skype. Since then, it’s our mutual love of crime fiction, mysteries and reading in general that keep us in regular contact.
Recently I devoured the first two novels in Robert Karjel’s Ernst Grip series, The Swede and After The Monsoon. I’d discovered them after a fellow mystery-lover had shared a review in the New York Times of the second book in the series, “Nordic Noir, In the Horn of Africa.”
Although the review focuses on the second book, I read them in order of publication, which I always do with a series. I’m glad I did, because so much of Grip’s backstory unfolds there, backstory that is necessary for a full appreciation of the continuing development of his personal storyline in the second book.
I flew through both books over the course of a few days. In the first book, the sub-plot originally started out as an independent storyline but was connected to the main plot partway through the book. Then, at the end of the book, I was left breathless with shock by the final, unexpected connection. The impact stayed with me for several days and I couldn’t wait to read the second in the series.
I enjoyed the second book as well, although it didn’t have the same punch at the end. Still, there were moments throughout the book that linger with me; Karjel has a genius for the smaller, telling details.
Karjel has been called a part of the “Nordic Noir” genre. Although the protagonist and some of the minor characters in each are Swedish, both of these novels are primarily set outside of Scandinavia (Thailand and Africa figure prominently), unlike many other novels in the genre.
However, one shared technique that I’ve seen with all of them is a sense of emotional distance between the main character and the reader. This could simply be a side effect of the difficulties of translation, but in Karjel’s case I think it’s deliberate. Grip is a fan of the artist Edward Hopper, especially Nighthawks, and the solitude, even loneliness, shown in that painting reflects the tone of the books.
I’m absolutely looking forward to the next Karjel novel and hope that it will be one in the Grip series.