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by Sara Blaedel and Erik J. Mackl and Tara F. Chace, trans.
Pegasus, August 2011
302 pages
ISBN: 1605982512

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Two recently-translated Danish mysteries open with scenes of women being subjected to violent abuse, then flash forward to the solving of the crime. However, readers who expect that CALL ME PRINCESS will be similar to Jussi Adler-Olsen's THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES (published as MERCY in the UK) will find they are very different reading experiences.

CALL ME PRINCESS is a police procedural more grounded in the realist tradition than Adler-Olsen's Department Q series. Though it is the first to be translated into English, it is actually the second in the Detective Inspector Louise Rick series, and like many series, there is an ongoing arc of ensemble character development as well as a self-contained investigation. A sadistic man is identifying women through an online dating site and, under the cover of anonymity, is able to turn a date into a brutal sexual assault. Some of his victims are too humiliated to report him. Others think that because they voluntarily entered into a casual relationship that turned violent, no crime has been committed. But when Susanne Hansson is hospitalized after her mother finds her tied and gagged and nearly unconscious, she tells her doctor she wants to report a rape. The rapist's next victim is found dead, and solving the case grows even more urgent.

The style of CALL ME PRINCESS is straightforward, more focused on story than on eloquent storytelling. As with most series, the lives of the two lead series characters, Detective Inspector Louise Rick and her friend, reporter Camilla Lind, provide a backdrop to the events. Louise's personal life takes some unexpected detours that give her insight into the lonely women who turn to the Internet to find companionship. The character of Susanne Hansson is the best developed, and she turns out to be a likeably nave but stubborn woman who finds her own strength after the ordeal that opens the book.

The overall effect of the book is rather like watching an episode of a fairly entertaining television mystery. The story is mildly interesting, the victim is nicely portrayed, the story proceeds according to expectations, and it's over within the usual allotted time. The dialogue is flat and often awkward in a way that can't be blamed on the translators; good dialogue reveals character, but there's little here that helps the reader evoke a clear picture of Louise or her colleagues. (Her swearing, in particular, seems forced and unidiomatic.) The publisher has likened Blaedel to Stieg Larsson and Camilla Lackberg. Given that the only thing those two authors have in common is the Swedish language, the comparison is not terribly helpful. As for both of those writers, literary style is not Blaedel's strength, but of the two writers her work is more similar to Lackberg's.

In the final analysis, there's nothing terribly wrong with the book, but there's nothing especially memorable about it either, leading this reader to wonder why she has been voted the most popular novelist in Denmark three times.

Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, August 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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