No 337 The Blinded Man by Arne Dahl, translated by Tiina Nunally for #NordicFINDS

I am squeezing in one last review for #NordicFINDS, the fantastic celebration of Scandinavian literature hosted by Annabel during January.

Detective Inspector Paul Hjelm’s life in is chaos. His wife Cilla is pulling away from him and his teenage children treat him like an embarrassment. To make matters worse, he has become a public hero since he diffused a local hostage situation but his breach of protocol means he is now under investigation and faces losing his job.

When he is called in to the office of Detective Superintendent Hultin, he is braced for the worst. Instead, he finds himself with a new position as part of a special task force dubbed the A-Unit. The A-Unit has been set up in response to the murders of two of Sweden’s most powerful businessmen. Both men were shot twice in the head in their living rooms and the killer has left no trace, even removing the bullets from the crime scene.

Hjelm and his colleagues have been tasked with uncovering any possible links between the two murdered men, assessing if there might be any more targets and finding the killer before he strikes again.  When a third murder takes place, several leads come to the fore. The victims were all members of organisations called the Order of the Mimir, which has overtones of the Freemasons; they all once played a game of golf together which ended in a drunken assault and an equally likely lead arises involving young male prostitutes with links to the Russian mafia. It is only when a cassette of an old jazz recording by Thelonious Monk is found at the crime scene that these disparate links start to come together.

The Blinded Man is a solid, well-written police procedural, strong on the depiction of the dull grunt work that has to be done at the start of an investigation. Each lead provides Dahl with the opportunity to explore socio-political issues within Swedish society, such as race, crime and the disparity between the rich and poor without being heavy-handed.

Hjelm is in part, your typical fictional detective, with a complicated home life and a penchant for breaking the rules, but his characterisation never slips into outright cliché. The A-Unit itself is made up of an interesting cross-section of Swedish society and while they might seem like stock characters at the start of the book, they come to life as the relationships between them develop and the case progresses. My one complaint would be in the depiction of the one female detective, who is beautiful and mysterious and of course provides a vague and unnecessary love interest for Hjelm. Possibly, in later books in the series, her character is developed more, but she wasn’t depicted with the depth and nuance of the other male characters.   

Any police procedural from Sweden is going to be compared to the master – Henning Mankell – and while Dahl isn’t quite working at that level, The Blinded Man is a solid and readable addition to the genre and an interesting introduction to the A-Unit. It is not surprising that it has been made into a TV show as the best of Scandi Crime usually are.

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I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

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