I’ve never read much crime fiction, so when I heard that fellow book bloggers Emma and Marina Sofia were planning a virtual literary festival to make up for the cancelled Quais du Polar, I thought this would be a good opportunity to try something different.
The book I chose for this event was In the Name of Truth by Swedish writer Viveca Sten. It’s a well-plotted, intriguing crime novel whose central event is the disappearance of an eleven-year-old boy from a sailing camp on a sandy island in the Stockholm Archipelago.
Sten takes quite a long time to build up to the disappearance, however. Most of the first half of the book is devoted to building up the characters and stories in a series of different and apparently unconnected threads.
We spend time with a businessman on trial for fraud, the prosecutor who’s trying to prepare for the case while arguing with her fiancé who’s leaving on a trip to Bangkok a few days before the wedding, a paedophile lurking around a bakery having a disturbing fantasy about a young child, police detective Thomas Andreasson and his failing marriage, shy little Benjamin preparing for a sailing camp he dreads, and more.
At first, I found it difficult to keep up with all the threads and the onslaught of new characters, particularly as there was nothing much of interest happening, except for the creepy menace of the unnamed man watching young children.
But gradually I settled into it and followed the various story strands as they slowly developed, still staying resolutely separate for a long time. And then the child disappears, and one by one they are all brought together.
The slow buildup really paid off in the second half, because by now I really cared about all of the characters and what was happening to them. I had a really vivid sense of the sailing camp in particular, and even the minor characters like the sailing instructors had their own chapters and backstories.
The multiple story threads and shifting perspectives also mean that it’s not all about the cop and his process in solving the crime. That becomes a large part of it in the second half, but there’s plenty going on outside of that too, as the fraud case takes a new turn, with gambling addiction, threats, Lithuanian gangsters, and doubt over who actually defrauded whom.
The resolution of all this is quite satisfying, with all the threads drawn together in a convincing way. I found myself speeding through the pages to see what would happen.
So I am glad I finally dipped my toe into the world of Scandinavian crime fiction in which it seems everyone else has been swimming for ages. Thanks to Emma and Marina Sofia for giving me the nudge!
Will I read more crime fiction now? To be honest, probably not. As enjoyable as this book was, I did feel a bit frustrated by the limitations to what was possible. I don’t think I’m giving any spoilers away here when I say that the crime was solved shortly before the end of the book. And when a cute child goes missing… OK, I am getting into spoiler territory here, so I’ll shut up. The point is that I wasn’t really surprised by anything that happened. Order was restored, the guilty were punished. The only uncertainty is in seeing who was responsible and exactly how they did it and how they end up getting caught. And I had figured out the broad strokes of it quite early.
I’m sure there are crime fiction books that break with these conventions and contain more surprises—I don’t read enough of it to know how many—but this one very much conformed to type. So although it was fun to see how it all worked out, I tend to want more from a book than the neatness of a puzzle solved.
But it’s good to try something different, so I’m glad I took part. Please do visit the organisers’ sites—Book Around the Corner and Finding Time to Write—to see their posts and read more about the festival. Not sure if they’re planning a link-up of posts, but you can find out more there. Or check out the original Quais du Polar festival that inspired it all.
Am I being unfair on crime fiction? Can I judge it when I’ve read so little of it? Are there rule-breaking crime fiction writers I should be reading? Lovers of the genre, please set me straight!