The efforts of the truly indispensable Soho Crime imprint to catch U.S. readers up on the Irene Huss series continues, aided mightily by the translation skills of Laura A. Wideburg.
THE FIRE DANCE is the sixth in Helene Tursten’s fine and addictive canon featuring Swedish Detective Inspector Irene Huss, a quietly complex character who for whatever reason puts me in the mind of Marge Gunderson from Fargo, notwithstanding the fact that Huss, a tall, slender one-time jiu-jitsu champion, bears no physical resemblance whatsoever to Minnesota’s Gunderson. No, it is the quiet but sharp-edged competence that both women bring to the job that begs comparison, as well as the manner in which each balance the personal and professional. Huss, in this case, is married to a gourmet restaurant chef and dealing with twin daughters firmly ensconced in the turbulence and angst of teenage adolescence, which plays a minor role here.
"The main attraction of THE FIRE DANCE is how it slices realistically into and out of Huss’s professional and personal lives. Not everything is wrapped up neatly by the end. Though the book is complete in itself, there are enough loose ends dangling at the conclusion to make the reader both wonder about and anticipate the next installment."
Originally published in 2005, THE FIRE DANCE begins with a flashback to one of Huss’s earliest cases, when, as a newly minted rookie with the Goteborg Murder Squad, she and partner Tommy Persson were tasked with investigating a cottage fire that took the life of a man named Magnus Eriksson. Suspicion fell upon Sophie Malmborg, the victim’s 11-year-old stepdaughter, who was the last known person besides Eriksson to have been in the cottage prior to the fire. But Sophie is non-communicative; the fire is subsequently ruled to be accidental, and Huss and Persson become involved in other investigations.
Some 15 years later, Huss is summoned to the scene of a homicide and is startled to learn that the charred remains of the victim are those of Sophie, who in the intervening period had become highly regarded as a ballet dancer. Of course, the new investigation awakens Huss’s memories and interests in Eriksson’s death, particularly as new evidence emerges regarding both cases. Sophie’s younger half brother is an interesting character, as opposite from the quiet, brooding Sophie as one might be able to imagine. The relationship between Sophie and her mother, Angelika Malmborg-Eriksson, a ballet instructor, was an odd one, given that Sophie chose to live with her father in the aftermath of her stepfather’s death. Angelika is also somewhat of a femme-fatale, as she demonstrated during the preliminary investigation into her husband’s death. A bit of a gold digger, she has a habit of wedding and divorcing rich and famous men while bedding others.
Then there is the school of dance with which both Sophie and her mother were associated, as well as an assorted cast of students and instructors, one of whom has caught the eye of Huss’s daughter, Katarina. The problem is that while there are a number of potential suspects in Sophie’s death, none of them are particularly likely ones. However, given the disturbing similarities in the manner of the two deaths, Huss is all but certain that there is a connection between them, despite the lapse in time.
The main attraction of THE FIRE DANCE is how it slices realistically into and out of Huss’s professional and personal lives. Not everything is wrapped up neatly by the end. Though the book is complete in itself, there are enough loose ends dangling at the conclusion to make the reader both wonder about and anticipate the next installment. This is a great series, the audience for which hopefully will grow exponentially with each subsequent release.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 8, 2014