Genre: Scandinavian Noir
When Norwegian TV personality, Fiona Helle, is found brutally murdered, the police suspect an angry fan. However, Helle’s murder is only the first in a series of increasingly violent and elaborate celebrity slayings, and the victims’ fame appears to be the only common factor between the crimes.
When the investigation stalls, Superintendent Adam Stubo takes the case file home to his wife, Johanne Vik. Johanne is an expert profiler, but initially reluctant to get involved; she’s severely sleep deprived and anxious, having given birth to her second daughter just weeks before. However, she detects a frightening pattern emerging between the crimes and soon realises that the only way to keep her family safe is to catch the killer before they strike again.
The Final Murder (Corvus, 2016) is a dark and sinister thrill ride, full of twists and turns.
I’m a latecomer to Scandi Noir. I didn’t see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo until years after its release, and I still haven’t read the books. I’ve watched a few films and TV series (currently enjoying The Lava Field), but my first bookish foray into the genre was Erik Axl Sund’s The Crow Girl (Random House UK, 2016). That was just a few months ago, and it whet my appetite. So I was thrilled to receive a copy of The Final Murder for review.
The Final Murder is book two in the Vik/Stubo series, though, like most crime novels, it reads fine as a standalone. It was originally published in Norwegian as Det Som Mitt back in 2001. (Although, Goodreads lists it as first published in 2004, and it’s set in 2004. Confusing.) The English translation by Kari Dickson first appeared in 2009.
The weather here in Perth has been utterly miserable this winter, and The Final Murder is the perfect thriller to while away the rainy evenings. I loved the setting: chilly, snow-choked streets. Darkness reaching through the days. The fuggy claustrophobia of being trapped indoors with a killer on the loose. Much sinister. So creepy. And the story holds enough twists and turns to support the steadily mounting tension.
If I have one criticism, it’s that some elements of the plot felt a tad predictable. There’s a brief prologue from the killer’s perspective containing a kinda-sorta cryptic clue about her identity. As soon as I read it, I was like: ‘Cool, thanks. I KNOW WHO THE KILLER IS.’ Or at least I’ll recognise her when she turns up. It didn’t ruin the story, as it’s not a straight-down-the-line whodunnit, but it took some of the fun and suspense out of reading.
Holt periodically switches to the killer’s perspective throughout the story and reiterates the Big Clue she drops in the prologue. If I were editing this book, I’d suggest she either drop the killer’s narrative or stop being so damn coy. She might have had a lot of fun by revealing the killer’s identity in the beginning and taking the reader further into her world.
Also, revealing the killer’s gender isn’t a spoiler, and it’s not The Clue. Even if Holt didn’t offer the killer’s POV, every time one of the investigators refers to the killer as ‘he’, someone else chimes in with a helpful ‘or she!’ I mean, we get it. Women can be serial killers too, #equality. It got so sledgehammer-y that I wondered if it had to do with the time in which it was written. Thinking about the crime novels and TV series I’ve read/watched in recent months, the percentage of female serial killers has been pretty high. Maestra by L. S. Hilton (2016), for one, and I can think of at least other two books and one TV series, which shall remain nameless, because spoilers. But perhaps murderous dames were less common in fiction back in 2001? I can’t recall many, but that could just be a gap in my knowledge. Anyhoo, it irked me because Holt makes a big song and dance about the fact that that the killer is female, but, honestly, her femaleness is arbitrary. She could easily be substituted for a male without having a significant effect on the story.
Minor quibbles aside, The Final Murder is a fab read. Disturbing, compelling and oh-so-deliciously dark.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for providing a copy of The Final Murder in exchange for an honest review.
Thanks also to Grammarly for picking up three critical issues and six advanced issues in my draft of this review. If, like me, you have trouble with typos, do give Grammarly a go!
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