Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson

Title: The Princess of Burundi
Author: Kjell Eriksson
Translated by: Ebba Segerberg
ISBN: 9780312327682/ Thomas Dunne Books, 2006
Genre: Police Procedural, #4 in the Ann Lindell mystery series
Rating: C+

First Line: The plate trembled, knocking over the glass.

Former small-time crook John Jonsson is found brutally murdered with clear evidence of torture in a small town in Uppsala, Sweden. With Ann Lindell on maternity leave, it is up to her partner, Ola Haver, to find the killer.

First of all, I'd like to pick a bone with publishers in general. According to Stop, You're Killing Me!, this is the fourth book in this series that Eriksson has written, but it's the first to be translated into English. The Princess of Burundi won the Swedish Crime Academy Award for Best Crime Novel, and the publisher obviously thought it stood the best chance of selling well here. Although the book stands on its own merits fairly well, I often felt as though I walked in halfway through the movie as far as the series characters went. Please publish series books in order!

In this book, Eriksson delineates each of his characters very carefully except for those who have already appeared in previous books. Ola Haver is a police officer whose marriage is ossifying, and I never did feel as though he was any great shakes as an investigator. He was mired in his worries about his home life. Ann Lindell is on maternity leave in this book, and there were too many references made to a relationship she'd had in a previous book. She didn't have all that much to do with solving this case, and what small glimpses of her that I was allowed made me want to know more:

"I'm certainly not sophisticated," she said quietly to herself. "Not like detectives on TV, the ones who listen to opera, know Greek mythology, and know if a wine is right for fish or a white meat. I just am. A normal gal who happened to become a police officer, the way other people become chefs, gardeners, or bus drivers. I want there to be justice, and I want it so much I forget to live my life."

It was page 126 before I learned what "Princess of Burundi" had to do with anything. (The victim raised tropical fish and Princess of Burundi is the popular name of one of the species.) I found the plot to be a bit too circuitous, and it seemed that the bad guys just kept right on going until they did something so blatantly stupid that the police couldn't help but catch them.

All this makes it sound as though I found the book to be a waste of time. I didn't. There was just enough of main character Ann Lindell there for me to know that she's someone special that I would like to get to know better. (I would suggest that, if she has any more children, her maternity leave occurs between books and not right in the middle of one!)

I also found Eriksson's descriptions of Sweden and Swedish society to be very good. As I was reading, I felt as though I were there crunching through the endless snow and becoming better acquainted with the people. I will be keeping an eye out for books by this author. If earlier books in the series are published, I will definitely read them.


16 comments:

  1. Someone told me they enjoyed this one much more than the one I recently read.
    http://paradise-mysteries.blogspot.com/2009/03/review-cruel-stars-of-night-kjell.html

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  2. C +
    Well, at least you got through it. I rarely give up on books, but I just found this one too annoying and confusing so after a few pages I put it back on the shelf. In my experience there are so many better Swedish crime novels. Fortunately it was a library book so I could just send it back :)

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  3. I gave this one a 3 out of 5 when I read it last year Cathy. I can recall being a bit overwhelmed by the sense of miserableness although I agree he does a great job creating a picture of the place. I thought the ending was a bit contrived too.

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  4. According to Fantasticfiction.com this is the first one:
    Ann Lindell Series
    1. The Princess of Burundi (2006)
    2. The Cruel Stars of the Night (2007)
    3. The Demon from Dakar (2008)

    Weird! I wonder which is right?

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  5. I enjoyed this, though I found the ending week. The correct order is on Euro Crime (www.eurocrime.co.uk) - unfortunately another series translated out of order. This one is the first to be translated into English but is about fourth in the series. I think readers of the English language version might have liked it more had they had the opportunity to read the earlier books first!

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  6. Very interesting. Based on the passage you quoted I would like to know more about this Ann Lindell too. I guess I'll wait to see if they translate the earlier books in the series first.

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  7. I was so curious that I bought Kjell Eriksson´s debut at the library today. Now I hope I will also have time to read and review it ;)

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  8. The fact that I couldn't start at the beginning would stop me from reading this. But I'm crazy like that.

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  9. Kerrie--sounds as though I might want to give the rest of the series a pass. Thanks for the link!

    Dorte--If I hadn't enjoyed the glimpse into Swedish life as much as I did, I would've given up on it, too. I'll look forward to your review of Eriksson's debut!

    Bernadette--I wonder if there's ever been a mystery written about a mob of Happy Swedes? :)

    Jen--That looks like the order of publication for the English translations.

    Maxine--I know I would've enjoyed it more if I'd been able to read the earlier books in the series first.

    Margot--I have a feeling that we won't be seeing those earlier books.

    Beth--Normally I'm crazy like that, too. I think I decided to break my own rule since I knew that the earlier ones weren't available in English.

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  10. I've had this book on my bedside table waiting to be read. This should help push me along. Thanks.

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  11. I liked this one quite a lot but can't remember much about it now. I can remember more about the very disappointing Cruel Stars. I didn't realise Ann was supposed to be the main character when I read Burundi and all the characters I'd got to know seemed to vanish into bit parts in the next book. I find Ann quite annoying (see Cruel Stars!) and found all the domestic stuff boring.

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  12. *sings* Hi Ho something here for you...

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  13. Joe--Glad I could be of service! :)

    Karen--I have to admit that I found all the domestic bits boring, too!

    Wendy--Thank you! My post about it will show up Friday. :)

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  14. It's always so much better in a series if there's enough info in each one that it can be a standalone. I do find if I've at least read the first in a series, picking the rest out of order (I do this all the time) doesn't hurt as much.

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  15. I agree. I read Bare Bones by Kathy Reichs recently and it was not the first in the Dr. Brennan series. I got this particular one because it was the only one in the series at the used book store I was at. The book's plot stood on its own but I missed some understanding in the characters' backgrounds. I completely understand feeling like your coming in in the middle of something.

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  16. Belle--Normally I am a fanatic about reading series in order. This time I bent my rule because the publisher isn't a fanatic about publishing them in order. Sheesh!

    Rebecca--I tend to be a fanatic about reading series in order because I am a character-driven reader. Series books often can and do stand on their own, but there's usually something in the character development that can be puzzling if read out of order.

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