What explains the continuing popularity of Scandinavian noir crime fiction? There must be something inside us that craves the dark and disturbing, feels the need to be exposed to the grim and foul, the touch of evil.
I suppose this explains the continuing appears of Piers Morgan on our TV screens.
The owl always hunts at night by Samuel Bjork, the second novel the Mia Kruger series, is the latest in a long line of such work, the ancestor of Wallander and cousin of The Killing.
In the book somebody is murdering young women. But he’s not only murdering them, he’s murdering them as part of a black magic ritual, involving torture.
But wait, there’s more! The murders are being filmed and made available through the dark web to the highest bidder.
Enter Kruger, a brilliant detective, who’ll proceed to bring the perpetrator to justice. Her quest will be assisted by a range of stock colleagues, an exasperated boss, close to retirement, a young
geeky hacker, an alcoholic partner with a heart of gold.
As you can probably tell, there’s very little in the novel that we haven’t read before.
The lead, Kruger, is, of course, an unconventional genius, who appears to work entirely on hunches unsupported by any sort of evidence. We know she’s a genius because people are always telling us she is. These people too appear unsupported by evidence.
The crimes involved are pretty nasty, but there’s nothing really to keep you awake at night. Their odder elements, which involve owls, seem thrown-in as an attempt at bringing something new to a tired genre.
The structure is textbook. They’ve found him! Oh no, it’s actually that guy! Yet that man, so far unconnected to the story appears to be acting strangely…
To be honest, the only thing that could get you particularly exercised about The owl always hunts at night is the amount of winking.
When was the last time you winked? I bet you can’t remember. That’s because winking is generally the sign of a deranged mind. Yet in Bjork’s book people are constantly winking. They wink when they’re happy, they wink when they’re sad, they wink when the author apparently can’t think of anything else for them to do.
This might seem an unimportant observation but it’s an indication of how lazy and dull much of the writing is. It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with the book, it’s just uninspired. A bridge that crosses a river, but no Clifton Suspension.
I’m sure some people will enjoy this novel, especially if they’re a big fan of the genre. But honestly, there’s much better books out there of the same genre, for example Someone else’s skin by Sarah Hilary. Books that are more invigorating, more challenging, written with more effort and containing fewer cliches. Check one of them out.
Samuel Bjork is the pen name of Norwegian novelist, playwright and singer/songwriter Frode Sander Oien. The Owl Always Hunts At Night is the second in his Munch and Kruger series, ‘I’m Travelling Alone’ was the first. Both have been bestsellers across Scandinavia and the rest of Europe.
The Owl Always Hunts At Night will be published by Doubleday Books on 20th April 2017.
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Review by Joseph Surtees
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Read more of Joseph Surtees’s reviews:
Sherlock Holmes: The Counterfeit Detective
Mr Iyer Goes To War
Grief Is The Thing With Feathers by Max Porter
Impact by Rob Boffard
Hack by Kieran Crowley
Habit by Stephen McGeah
The Beginning of the End by Ian Parkinson
Read Joseph Surtee’s Interview with Max Porter below…
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