I thought it was about time I varied my diet with a little crime fiction. I say crime fiction, rather than detective fiction, because Karen Alvtegen seems to write crime novels without a detective. That was the case with Missing, which I read last year and the same is true of Betrayal. This means that she has no obligation to tie things up at the end, to resolve the mystery (even if one or two loose ends are often left tantalisingly untied), and so the novel can end as bleakly as it began.
This is a fast-paced thriller. The fact that I began reading this book late on Sunday afternoon and finished it before I went to bed (whilst walking the dog, cooking (and eating) a full roast dinner and running a handful of other errands) lays testament to how quickly the plot moves. Some credit for this must undoubtedly go to the translator, Steven T.Murray, who has done a marvellous job with this. Murray is also the translator of many of Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallender novels, as well, so he’s well-practised in the art of translating Swedish crime fiction, but Alvtegen structures the plot extremely well, introducing multiple perspectives into the two relentlessly merging narratives.
There has been a huge growth of interest in recent years in European crime fiction and the Scandinavian countries, in particular, are producing some of the very best crime writing there is. There was a time when the detective novel was a very British affair (and there are still plenty of first-rate British crime writers, let me say) and, in particular seemed to be a particular strength of the Scots (from Conan Doyle to Rankin), but more recently the Swedes and Norwegians, in particular, have made a very strong showing.
Betrayal has a televisual, rather than a cinematic, feel to it. It would translate into the kind of Lynda La Plante two-parter common in the UK TV schedules. It is brutal, harrowing and relentless and I wouldn’t be surprised if the TV rights were bought up soon , if they haven’t already. All good stuff, mind!