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Bonniers, 2002. ISBN: 910058004X
Reviewed by Stig Olsson in SBR 2003:1
There is a spring to the sentence structure and a conversational, almost
chatty fluency to the narrative. “This is a novel of correspondence. It is also a crime story. Perhaps even something else”, says the author on the dust jacket.
Agnes and Henny, well-to-do middle class women now in their forties, live
somewhere in Germany. They were intimate friends, although perhaps not
bosom-buddies after all, in childhood and adolescence but now twenty years have gone by without any contact between the two. The death of Agnes’ husband initiates their correspondence and the planning of the assassination of David, Henny’s husband.
Interspersed between the women’s letters to each other are enlightening passages, personal reflections on their early lives, families, friends, school days and careers. They are both well educated, Agnes teaches English literature, and their marriages brought financial independence and security to both of them. Agnes now lives alone in the big estate with her beloved dogs trying to work out how best to meet the legitimate inheritance claims of her two stepchildren (whom she hates) without selling the big, comfortable house. Her husband’s demise hasn’t left her heartbroken. He was quite a few years older than she and after all, she didn’t marry him out of passion. Indeed, reflecting on her new circumstances immediately after the funeral Agnes had “a feeling of suppressed satisfaction, as if something long foreseen was about to materialize.” Henny and her husband also lead a comfortable life, with two healthy children and no financial worries.
So, in her third letter to Agnes, Henny reveals David’s adulterous affair with another woman. She expresses her disappointment and calmly suggests to Agnes the decision she has reached. “My husband must die, and I want your help”, she writes. She appeals to Agnes not to put the letter aside but to hear her out. Some time ago I read an American crime story about two strangers who meet on a train and in their conversation they realize that it would be mutually beneficial if a person close to them died, Henny continues. They were talking about two separate people, she writes, two victims. The risks involved for the two strangers should they decide to murder their respective victim themselves would be considerable. But if they swapped victims? A “criss-cross” of mutual benefit?
Agnes is shocked and appalled, but Henny asks her to think it over, to consider the financial benefits for her. She would be handsomely rewarded for murdering David and the money could be used to settle the stepchildren’s inheritance claims.
The reader who followed the development of the American version of film noir in the1950s probably recognizes Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece
Strangers on a Train (1951) starring Robert Walker and Farley Granger. The novel Henny refers to above was written by Patricia Highsmith, by the way.
Is Håkan Nesser’s crime story also a thriller? Barely, but enjoyable and
Also by Håkan Nesser
Other reviews by Stig Olsson
- Ola Larsmo, Jag vill inte tjäna (I Do Not Wish to Serve). Reviewed in SBR 2009:2.
- Daniel Sjölin, Världens sista roman (The World's Last Novel). Reviewed in SBR 2008:2.
- Tim Davys, Amberville. Reviewed in SBR 2008:1.
- Theodor Kallifatides, Herakles (Heracles). Reviewed in SBR 2007:1.
- Carina Burman, Vit som marmor - ett romerskt mysterium (White as Marble - A Roman Mystery). Reviewed in SBR 2006:2.
- Klas Östergren, Gangsters. Reviewed in SBR 2006:1.
- Håkan Anderson, Breven (The Letters). Reviewed in SBR 2005:2.
- Lars Ahlin, OM (IF). Reviewed in SBR 2004:1.
- Jerker Virdborg, Svart krabba (Black Crab). Reviewed in SBR 2003:1.
- Arne Sundelin, Sova räv (Sleeping with One Eye Open). Reviewed in SBR 2002:2.
- Lars Åke Augustsson, Sveavägen. Reviewed in SBR 2002:1.
- Jan Henrik Swahn, Vandrarna (The Wanderers). Reviewed in SBR 2002:1.
- Tomas Tranströmer and Robert Bly, Air Mail, Brev 1964-1990 (Air Mail, Letters 1964-1990). Reviewed in SBR 2001:2.
- Kristina Sandberg, Insekternas sång (The Song of the Insects). Reviewed in SBR 2001:1.
- Torbjörn Elensky, Myrstack (Ant-Hill). Reviewed in SBR 2000:2.
- Ole Söderström, Avsked till det igenkännliga (A Farewell to the Recognizable). Reviewed in SBR 1999:2.
- Agneta Klingspor, Framkallning (Development). Reviewed in SBR 1999:2.
- Ole Hessler, Minnen av en ängel i sovsäck (Memories of an Angel in a Sleeping Bag). Reviewed in SBR 1999:1.
- Torbjörn Elensky, På stället (On the Spot). Reviewed in SBR 1999:1.
- Birgitta Trotzig, Dubbelheten. Tre sagor (Doubleness. Three Fairy Tales). Reviewed in SBR 1998:2.
- Theodor Kallifatides, De sju timmarna i paradiset (The Seven Hours in Paradise). Reviewed in SBR 1998:1.
- Lars Andersson, Platsens ande. En bok om Tage Aurell (The Spirit of the Place. A Book about Tage Aurell). Reviewed in SBR 1998:1.
Other reviews in SBR 2003:1
- Gerda Antti, Livet skriver kapitel (Life Writes its Chapters). Reviewed by Sarah Death.
- Majgull Axelsson, En stad av slott (A City of Castles). Reviewed by Linda Schenck.
- Ernst Brunner, Fukta din aska. C M Bellmans liv från början till slut (Moisten Your Mortal Ashes. C M Bellman's Life from Beginning to End). Reviewed by Birgitta Thompson.
- Stewe Claeson, Rönndruvan glöder (The Rowan's Cluster Glows). Reviewed by Charles Harrison-Wallace.
- Stig Claesson, Efter oss syndafloden (Après nous le déluge). Reviewed by Henning Koch.
- Åke Edwardson, Segel av sten (Sails of Stone). Reviewed by Irene Scobbie.
- Anna Ehn, Man ska vara tyst när man önskar (Make a Silent Wish). Reviewed by Sarah Death.
- Per Gunnar Evander, Plötsligt medan dimman lättar (Suddenly While the Mist is Lifting). Reviewed by Rick McGregor.
- Theodor Kallifatides, Den sjätte pasageraren (The Sixth Passenger). Reviewed by Peter Linton.
- Maaret Koskinen, I begynnelsen var ordet: Ingmar Bergman och hans tidiga författarskap (In the Beginning Was the Word: Ingmar Bergman and his early writings). Reviewed by Annika Lindskog.
- Björn Larsson, Den sanna berättelsen om Inga Andersson (The True Story of Inga Andersson). Reviewed by Tom Geddes.
- Ulla-Lena Lundberg, Marsipansoldaten (The Marzipan Soldier). Reviewed by Silvester Mazzarella.
- Henning Mankell, Innan frosten (Before the Frost). Reviewed by Laurie Thompson.
- Jan Myrdal, Gubbsjuka. Reviewed by Eivor Martinus.
- Cilla Neumann, Dem oss skyldiga äro (Those Who Trespass Against Us). Reviewed by Linda Schenck.
- Johanna Nilsson, Rebell med frusna fötter (Rebel With Frozen Feet). Reviewed by Sarah Death.
- Elisabeth Rynell, Till Mervas (To Mervas). Reviewed by Irene Scobbie.
- Niklas Rådström, Kvartett (Quartet). Reviewed by Anne Born.
- Friedrich Strindberg, Under jorden i Berlin (Underground in Berlin). Reviewed by Eivor Martinus.
- Jerker Virdborg, Svart krabba (Black Crab). Reviewed by Stig Olsson.
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