Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Older Scandinavian noir and some upcoming titles
While waiting for several new releases of European noir in translation and a new Qiu Xiaolong novel about Shanghai, I went back to reread a Norwegian noir novel called The Butterfly Effect, by Pernille Rygg. I wanted to see whether it might be worth seeking out the second of Rygg's novels about sort-of private detective Igi Heitmann, and couldn't remember the first one all that one (other than that it had some passing resemblance to Smilla's Sense of Snow, a novel I didn't care much for). The Butterfly Effect actually has a VERY superficial resemblance to Smilla (a clinical/scientific setting for part of the book, a young female central character, the Scandinavian setting). Rygg's Igi Heitmann, though, is a believable character rather than a magic-realist cypher. Not that Igi has your everyday problems, unless you're a failed scientist whose detective father was just killed, whose first client apparently committed suicide, and whose husband is flagrantly gay. Igi goes up against the power structures of the psychiatric establishment, the police force that crushed her father's professional hopes, and the financial power of the developers raping the city of Oslo (according to Rygg). More Chinatown than Smylla, in other words. But at every stage, the narrative is low key, Igi is three-dimensionally human, and the story is tragic but believable. I've sent for a copy of the second Igi book, The Golden Section. Meanwhile, upcoming reviews here include The Uncomfortable Dead (co-written by Paco Ignacio Taibo II and Subcomandante Marcos, the spokesman for the Zapatista revolutionaries in Chiapas, Mexico), the aforementioned Qiu Xiaolong novel, a couple of Irish police procedurals, and new translations of noir fiction by Åsa Larsson, Helene Tursten, and some other surprises.