Why Lars Kepler are the real next Stieg Larsson
The Nightmare, second of Lars Kepler’s novels to be translated from Swedish into English, offers one protagonist haunted by deep secrets. The novel is fascinated with Paganini and with great old violins. It equates moral rectitude with musical ability, and it does so with a straight face. Talk about far-fetched, potboiler-y notions.
The solution to the central mystery, though that mystery concerns a political issue torn from today’s headlines and involves government and corporate corruption, is straight out of Columbo. Quite naturally, the novel includes one especially horrible death. And then its prologue ranks the world’s top arms-dealing nations, of which Sweden is in the top nine.
There's nothing wrong with potboilers, and there's nothing wrong with politically engaged crime fiction. But it's always fair to ask whether the politics and the potboiling are organically intertwined, or whether they appeal, separately, to two separate aspects of what the reader wants. Dominque Manotti, Jean-Patrick Manchette, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, and the great Leonardo Sciascia tell stories in which the politics and the thrills seem to emerge, inextricably bound, from the same reality. Among current Swedish crime writers, I would argue that Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström come close to achieving this in Three Seconds.
The Stieg Larssonites don't do this, and I don't think they try. I find their achievements less impressive than I do those of the authors I've just named, but it doesn't mean the Larssonians are any worse, just different. I can't blame an author for failing at what he or she may never have tried to do.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012