The Beige Man: An Inspector Irene Huss Investigation Set in Sweden
Helene Tursten never disappoints. Her Inspector Irene Huss series has been a favorite of mine since I read NIGHT ROUNDS a few years ago; each successive installment has been memorable for different reasons. THE BEIGE MAN, originally published in Sweden in 2007, is now making an appearance in the United States thanks to Soho Crime, which has been instrumental in introducing Tursten to American readers, and Marlaine Delargy, whose translation is first rate as always. The title of the work belies the dark subject matter of the story, which will haunt you long after the last page is read.
"THE BEIGE MAN...stands quite well on its own as a mystery, ending in a series of startling revelations that will leave the reader simultaneously flummoxed and impressed. Fans of police procedurals will want to acquaint themselves with this superior series, quickly and completely."
That being said, let us start at the beginning. THE BEIGE MAN is set primarily in Göteborg, Sweden, as is the case with Tursten’s other works. Those of us used to the cold and snow of Midwest winters will immediately identify with the two police officers attempting to ward off the frigid night as they begin a meal break at the start of the book, only to have their repast rudely interrupted as a stolen BMW careens by them. They give chase, only to witness the stolen car’s involvement in the horrific hit and run of a pedestrian. The victim is former policeman Torleif, a nondescript officer who had been a member of Detective Inspector Huss’ unit at one point and was best known for his rigorous devotion to a vegan diet, more so than for his detective abilities. He had been living in quiet and frugal retirement until his abrupt, unfortunate and, yes, quite violent death.
Other units pursue the stolen car, which is found abandoned a short distance away. During the ensuing search for the thieves, who are now also murderers, a horrific discovery is made: the body of a young girl who has been physically and sexually abused. It is clear that the thieves, for all their sins, would not have had time to dispose of the girl’s body and that someone else is responsible. But who would do such a thing? Huss and her team prepare themselves to investigate the grim world of sex trafficking while also pursuing the individuals who killed the ex-cop.
It is the former case that consumes the majority of the book, as Huss follows a trail that leads unexpectedly to a sunny Spanish resort and suddenly turns deadly. It is that evidentiary pursuit, however, that provides Huss with the slender thread that her team needs to ultimately follow the killer of the young and unfortunate girl back to his lair, where a somewhat unlikely and unexpected justice waits to be revealed.
THE BEIGE MAN, title notwithstanding, is the darkest of the Inspector Huss novels to be published in the United States to date. Sex trafficking is a global issue that is eclipsed by the concern over drug trafficking but is beginning to receive the attention it deserves. It is far from being a victimless crime --- there are passages here that I would love to disinfect from my memory --- and if awareness of the problem is increased by this publication, then all the better. THE BEIGE MAN, though, stands quite well on its own as a mystery, ending in a series of startling revelations that will leave the reader simultaneously flummoxed and impressed. Fans of police procedurals will want to acquaint themselves with this superior series, quickly and completely.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 6, 2015