When Rodney Hill, wrongly arrested for a series of murders, hangs himself, Jill Kennedy the forensic psychologist whose profile led to Hill's arrest, gives up her work with the police and moves to the peaceful village of Kelton Bridge to write self-help books, enjoy a quiet life with her cats and perhaps an occasional flutter on the horses.
English village mysteries are one of the categories that remind me that even though I love the dark and noir side of crime fiction, a little lighter fare every now and again is good for the psyche. Or at least a welcome change in approach. I'm always on the lookout for a new "series" of these style of books to accumulate for when I'm looking for something lighter as I'm running a little short of favourites to turn to.
INTO THE SHADOWS is a more modern take on the traditional English village style of book, mostly I felt, because there's yet another serial killer involved. I have to say that the combination of a blurb talking about a retirement life with cats, romantic tension with an ex-lover trying to regain affection, and a stalking serial killer and I was feeling a little leery. Add to that some predictable plot points (every male in the village seemed to be a suspicious character), and some flat out unbelievable plot points (look behind you - well in this case above you for goodness sake!) and I wasn't exactly in my own particular reading comfort zone.
Surprisingly enough though, I found that I could still read this book. Perhaps it's because Jill and Max were an interesting pair, flawed, warm, funny, very realistic. Perhaps it's because it is an English village mystery and there are some aspects of those style of books that you can just let roll - after all they are the perfect antidote to a cold Sunday afternoon. And that's probably the main reason that I'm always on the lookout for a good English village series - I like reading these sorts of books, curled up in the rocking chair in front of the fire, large glass of something red and a small select box of good choccies. Whilst I can't say that INTO THE SHADOWS wasn't a flawed book, it certainly had enough going for it to put other entrants in the series on my potential new series to follow list.
LANG - Kjell Westo
Kjell Westo is a Swedish speaking Finnish author, who has previously published poetry, short stories and three novels. LANG is his first suspense / crime novel.
The central character, Lang, is a twice divorced, well-known novelist and host of a TV discussion panel show in Finland. He's a very self-obsessed, slightly pretentious man who totally loses personal control when he meets Sarita - a very self-contained, distant woman. Lang and Sarita develop a complicated and tortuous personal relationship which is not helped by the presence of Sarita's ex-husband Marko. Lang feels physically and emotionally threatened by Marko but his passion for Sarita is so extreme he cannot tear himself away.
The novel is structured in an unusual manner, there is a narrator, Lang's best friend, who starts off telling the story after a murder has been committed, when Lang calls him late in the night. The story then steps back through the events that led up to Lang meeting Sarita, the difficulties of their relationship, their various split ups and reconciliations and Marko's involvement. The narration of events is interspersed with snippets of the narrator's involvement with Lang since childhood, and even before the crime is revealed in the book, Lang's behaviour in prison where he is obviously serving a sentence for killing somebody - but who is not clear. The victim is intentionally vague until the final clarification - it could be Sarita, it could be Marko, it could really be anybody.
This is another one of those classic Scandinavian style crime fiction books where nothing is easy, nothing is simply resolved, and there are more questions at the end than there are answers. Lang is an unpleasant character - not the sort of person that you could warm to, and even at the end, when it appears that he may just have done something grand and selfless for love, he is at the same time pulling away from the people who try to support him, back into his prickly, self-involved world. Sarita is both a victim and a perpetrator, she uses Lang just as much as he tries to control her. Even the narrator is relieved that his involvement is kept out of the courts and therefore out of the press. Another one of those books that you can't say outright that you loved or even necessarily enjoyed, but you read it, and you think about it for weeks and weeks afterwards.