Who Watcheth: An Inspector Irene Huss Investigation
I sporadically binge read Scandinavian crime fiction. It’s always been there, with a book or two impacting the United States every couple of decades or so. That all changed with Stieg Larsson, whose THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO tore the roof off the sucker, so to speak, and revealed an entire substrata of crime novels that had been written and published in Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark, among other exotic locales. Soho Crime was (and, to a great degree, still is) ahead of the curve on bringing these books --- many of them wonderful, all of them interesting and worthwhile --- to our eyes.
These include the Inspector Irene Huss investigations. Irene Huss is (surprise!) a Detective Inspector with the homicide squad of the Göteborg, Sweden Police Department. Each novel combines the professional and the personal in all of the best ways while always presenting a puzzling, though not necessarily complex, mystery at bedrock.
"This book boasts one of the best endings to a crime novel that I have read this year. It’s a bit shocking, possibly inappropriate and terrific all at once."
The primary mystery that runs through WHO WATCHETH, the newly published volume, involves a series of murders of women by strangulation in the Göteborg area. The killings are marked by a number of characteristics. Each of the victims prior to death received a flower and a photograph of themselves with someone in an intimate moment. The body of each victim is also discovered carefully prepared and wrapped within a few days after death. Irene’s team is fairly sharp, and credibly so. A combination of skilled interrogation and persistence allows them to ultimately come across a suspect in the murders, though it is a bit of a toss-up as to whether he is the actual doer or simply guilty of being unsettlingly strange or weird. The case takes an extremely unexpected turn, though, when the next victim strikes particularly close to Irene’s team itself.
Meanwhile, Irene is being subjected to a series of bizarre and rapidly escalating incidents of vandalism and harassment that are related to one of her prior cases, which ended tragically and with little satisfaction for anyone. While the harassment issue is settled in somewhat short order, the fallout from it results in some changes for Irene’s family, which undoubtedly will affect future events.
This book boasts one of the best endings to a crime novel that I have read this year. It’s a bit shocking, possibly inappropriate and terrific all at once. At this point, the US publication of the series is almost caught up, thanks to the diligence of publisher Soho Crime and the skillful perseverance of author Helene Tursten’s translators (and a thank you to Marlaine Delargy for yet another outstanding result). While the fourth book remains untranslated as of this date, the follow-up to WHO WATCHETH is scheduled for a 2017 release in the US under the title “Protected by the Shadows.” That book, published in Sweden in 2012, is the latest installment thus far. Undoubtedly the events here will strongly impact that volume and the series, as well as its primary protagonist. Read now and find out why.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 9, 2016