Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Bad Blood

Bad Blood
Bad Blood by Arne Dahl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Suspense/Thriller/Noir Crime
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: those who like darker crime thrillers, those who like Scandinavian crime novels
Book Available: August 13, 2013 in Hardcover and Kindle formats
Trigger Warnings: torture, murder, infidelity (flashback to first book), child abuse

My Thoughts: This is an absolutely brilliant book, like the first one. Again I am not surprised to find that Arne Dahl is a bestseller and very well-known elsewhere in the world. While it is very dark, it's also very well-written, and a highly enjoyable read.

This book mentions that the majority of serial killers—the vast majority—live in and operate in the USA. I did a little looking into it and saw that this is true, and it made me wonder: why? What in our society is feeding this sort of sick psyche? What is causing our children to grow up to want to murder people over and over again? This is nothing new, either; as long as records have been kept, the US has led the world. It is just that we keep better records? Consider that countries like India and China vastly outnumber us in population, yet we hold this record. It's very obviously not about being crowded, as this is one of the less-crowded countries in the world. It's very strange and, I think, a good subject for discussion. If anyone knows of any studies done to try to explain this, please comment with links.

Speaking of serial killers, one thing about them is you can never tell who they are.
Perhaps one could trivially conclude that he simply didn't stand out. An everyman, like so many serial killers. One might suppose that a man who, hardly an hour earlier, had carried out a bestial, tortuous murder would stand out in some day, perhaps not with large, wild eyes, bloody clothes, and a dripping ice pick, but at least something.
But of course, they usually don't.
However, ironically, as Kersten Holm says, “Serial killing is about being seen.” Not literally, of course, but about being noticed, confirming one's own reality through the actions of others. Power is gained through the public's reactions, through the attempts of the police to catch the killer, and through the distress caused to everyone around the situation.

There is a description of a literary critic in this book that really made me sit up and take notice. A colleague describes him thus:
Hassel had power. He was allowed to write about whatever books he wanted, and he always chose things he didn't understand, just so he could cut those authors off at the knees. He wrote... a few... novels in the seventies, but since then all his work has been based on raking people over the coals. It's almost impossible to count the promising authors he's single-handedly sunk.”
Is that what is meant when being a literature critic is mentioned? Is that why so many people who write reviews seem to revel in cruel and ranting “reviews” designed only to taunt and demean the author rather than explain why they didn't like the book in a way that actually refers to... the book? Well, that explains a lot of things...

Obviously this is not a humorous book. It's about a nasty serial killer. But there are some really funny moments. One of my favorites ran a couple pages, where the habits of each of the detectives in the morning, and during transit to work, are described. It made me snort repeatedly. The humor is a bit dry, but I think folks who like their humor dry—like they like their champagne or wine—will be similarly amused.

I think fans of noir, darker crimer thrillers, and fans of other Scandinavian writers will find this to be a book they won't want to miss. There are almost a dozen novels in this series, but this is only the second to be translaterd into English. I very much hope the remainder of the series will follow in due time, as I definitely want to read them all. This book doesn't have a happy ending, but it does have a hopeful one; I am very happy the last two chapters were included to shine a light in the darkness as it were. Highly recommended.

Series Information: Intercrime/Unit-A series
Book 1: Misterioso, read and reviewed May, 2011, review linked here where formatting allowed.
Book 2: Bad Blood, available August 13, 2013
Books 3 – 11: Published in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe, but not translated into English at this time. Hopefully they will be translated into English and released here soon!

Disclosure: I received an ARC from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: In Arne Dahl’s riveting follow-up to Misterioso, the Intercrime team is assigned the task of tracking down an American serial killer on the loose in Sweden—quietly, and as quickly as possible.

When a Swedish literary critic is found tortured to death in a janitor’s closet at Newark International Airport, the police realize that the murderer made off with the victim’s ticket and boarded a flight to Stockholm. Swedish authorities are placed on high alert, but the killer manages to slip through the customs dragnet and vanishes into the night. 

With no clear motive in sight, Detectives Paul Hjelm and Kerstin Holm of Intercrime’s A-Unit take over the investigation. They learn that the method of torture used was not only a highly specialized means of extracting information secretly developed during the Vietnam War—allowing the victim to whisper, but not to scream—but also that it was the modus operandi of an allegedly deceased homicidal maniac known only as the Kentucky Killer. 

As additional victims are discovered on the outskirts of Stockholm and the terror grows, the team finds itself coming up empty-handed. Hjelm and Holm fly to New York, hoping to discover both the killer’s identity and the source of his interest in Sweden. What they quickly learn, searching through the past, is that bad blood always comes back around.

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