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THE GOLDEN CALF
by Helen Tursten and Laura A. Wideberg, trans.
Soho , February 2013
338 pages
$26.95
ISBN: 1616950080


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Though originally published in Sweden in 2003, this fifth book in the Irene Huss series is timely. Irene and her partner Tommy Persson are called to murder scene in a grand home overlooking the sea in a wealthy enclave of Goteborg. Someone has put two bullets neatly into the victim's head. Irene can't place the man's traumatized wife, Sanna Kaegler-Ceder, but is sure she's seen her before.

It turns out that Kaegler-Ceder was one of a trio of bright young entrepreneurs whose dot-com startup failed spectacularly a few years earlier. Though she had seemed to land on her financial feet, marrying a much older wealthy hotelier, things about the couple don't add up. When colleagues report in on another crime, a double murder of a financial consultant and an unidentified man, Irene quickly connects the dots. The murders share an MO, though it's hard to know exactly how they are related - or how they might connect with a missing persons case from a few years earlier.

As with other entries in this series, the story follows the team of detectives as they go about their work, teasing out the clues and connections that will make the case hang together. The complexity of the plot is anchored by quick, sure sketches of memorable minor characters. We also get satisfying glimpses of the recurring characters' lives. Tommy is going through problems with his marriage; Irene worries about her grumpy, misogynistic boss who is nearing retirement but has nothing in his life but the job. Tursten strikes a good balance between ongoing character development and the unfolding of the story, celebrating the ordinary pleasures and dilemmas of Irene's domestic life, never letting personal drama get in the way of the mystery.

In this case, the crimes leading to murder are financial ones, drawing parallels between modern entrepreneurial enterprise and criminality that would be easily recognized by the left-leaning founders of modern Scandinavian crime fiction, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo and just as familiar to those of us left holding the bill after greed and unregulated mismanagement led to a more recent global economic crisis. This is one of the best entries in a quietly strong series.

Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, March 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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