Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Torso by Helene Tursten

First sentence:  The wind gave no warning of the ghastly discovery.
Only the torso of a body is found on a beach in Sweden.  The only way to even identify the gender is through DNA testing.  Irene Hess and her team discover there was a similar crime, still unsolved, in Denmark.  The mother of a girl Hess knew is missing in Denmark and is found to be the third victim, although not as completely mutilated.  With the fourth victim, Hess fears the killings are somehow related to her. 
Hass is a very descriptive writer and very good at setting a scene.  This is particularly helpful with a foreign setting to which readers may never have been.  One thing very much appreciated is that all the money, weights, distances, etc., were converted in footnotes, for American readers. 
From the outset, we are introduced to Irene and her team--and doesn’t every team have that one, obnoxious member.  It’s a nice individuality that Irene’s boss refers to the morning meeting as “morning prayers.”  It is also a pleasure to have a DI with a supportive husband, two teen-aged daughters and dog Sammie; a normal family life. Thursden is very good at balancing the different aspects of the story and even includes several delicious meals prepared by her chef husband. 
There is a wonderful mix of personalities to the characters, particularly that of Tom Tanaka, a sex-shop owner who knew one of the victims.  Some of the characters also provide red herrings for the story.  One thing that is clear is the much more open attitude toward sex in Denmark than in other countries. 
Their laissez-faire approach did surprise me.  One does notice a certain fixation on eating and never missing a weekend.  The police never seem to miss a meal, even in the middle of an investigation.  It’s very much food-first; and no fast food here…”All of them chose tender ox rolls in a divine cream sauce, black currant jelly, and a large helping of early spring greens.  Everyone had beer.”
The forensic information is fascinating.  The tension builds with each chapter and it is not a book one is inclined to set aside.  One wants to keep going and see where the trail leads.  There is tremendous attention paid to the details in every aspect, but it the case or people’s personal lives.  One criticism would be that there is tremendous building up to the end, and then it just…ends.
The Torso” is gruesome, but not gratuitously so.  However, It is a thoroughly engrossing, true follow-the-leads police procedural. 

THE TORSO (Pol Proc-DCI Irene Huss-Sweden/Denmark-Contemp) – VG
Tursten, Helene – 3rd in series
Soho Crime – April 2007 

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