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Black Static

New Horror Fiction BLACK STATIC 82/83 OUT NOW

The Late Review: Night Rounds

12th Apr, 2023

Author: Peter Tennant

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Following on from last week's blog entry, let's have some more Scandinavian crime. Night Rounds by Helene Tursten was originally published in Sweden in 1999, the second in a series starring Irene Huss, a Detective Inspector with the Violent Crimes Unit in Göteborg, Sweden. Translated by Laura A. Wideburg and published by Soho Press, this trade paperback edition found its way onto bookshop shelves in the UK in 2012.

Lowander private hospital in Göteborg is on its last legs financially, with owner Dr Sverker Lowander ready to sell and wife Carina planning to transform it into fitness centre. Then after a blackout one of the nurses goes missing and is discovered dead, and another nurse claims to have seen the ghost of Nurse Tekla, who committed suicide on the premises sixty years earlier. It's just the start though, with other people going missing and then turning up dead. While her colleagues pursue current events, Huss is convinced that what happened in the past is relevant and digs into the history of the hospital and the Lowander family.

I have reservations about much of this, though I'll have to drop a spoiler or two to make my case. For starters the whole thing with Tekla is simply there to muddy the waters, and possibly lure in the odd extra reader looking for ghost story thrills and chills which it doesn't deliver despite a desperate lunge on the last page at a horror movie cliché. In retrospect the Tekla angle reminded me of nothing so much as a Scooby Doo episode where the ghost is exposed as somebody wearing a white sheet in the final reel. While the delving into Lowander family history and the fate of the original Tekla is absorbing, there really isn't any solid reason for the killer to go to such lengths. For seconds, I thought the murder mystery was rather transparent, with nobody paying much attention to the obvious suspect/motive until the book's end game plays out. You could argue that without the Tekla complication the investigation would have been wrapped up at novella length, and even that might have required some padding.

What was more interesting was the character of Huss, a former ju-jitsu champion, her family and work colleagues. Her husband is a professional chef, with career and health concerns that add depth to the family picture, while twin teenage daughters Katrina and Jenny bring their own complications, particularly the latter, whose involvement with an animal rights group results in problems for Huss. Similarly within the team of detectives on the case there are some intriguing, fully rounded characters and conflicts arise, the book holding up a mirror to the sexism operating in the police force. It was these details that made the book interesting, but alas not to the point that I feel inspired to check out more work by the author.




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