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by Helene Tursten and Laura S. Wideburg, trans.
Soho, February 2012
336 pages
ISBN: 1616950064

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Though the fourth to appear in English, NIGHT ROUNDS is the second in the series that stars Inspector Irene Huss. She's an intriguing character who combines elements of the superhero (she's a Ju-Jitsu champion and a hell of a street-fighter) with those of a relatively ordinary woman heading toward early middle-age. Intelligent and clear-eyed, Irene's a bit prone to making comparisons between herself and the women she comes across in the course of her professional duties, comparisons that are never in her favour. She is the mother of twin teen-aged girls and married to every working wife's dream, a professional chef who is happy to cook for the family.

Every second book I pick up these days seems to have either a real or imaginary ghost or a real or imaginary rare disease. Sometimes both. Since NIGHT ROUNDS first appeared in Swedish twelve years ago, I can hardly accuse Tursten of hopping on a bandwagon, but all the same, we have both ghost and odd medical condition (Turner's syndrome) at play here.

The book reflects Tursten's own life experience; she was first a nurse (as was Agatha Christie) and then a dentist before taking up writing as a career. It takes place in and around a private hospital in Göteborg, Sweden, a rather odd institution that seems to be open only part of the week. The building is an old one, and like many of its vintage, it is reputed to be haunted - in this instance by the ghost of Nurse Tekla, who killed herself in one of its attics in the 1940s. Late one evening, the lights suddenly go out, the back-up generator fails to kick in, and an elderly and wealthy patient on a respirator dies. Before the power is restored, the body of a nurse is discovered in the basement, an apparent murder victim. Meanwhile, upstairs, an elderly nurse is in semi-hysterics (odd, I thought, for an old-school nurse), convinced that she has seen a ghost.

The police naturally are disinclined to pursue a ghost as a suspect; in fact it is not completely clear who was the intended victim. Was it the patient who died or the nurse? But soon enough, the body count begins to mount and it will take solid, professional police work to get to the bottom of the crimes, just the sort of thing that Insp. Huss is good at. She is also excellent at balancing the demands of home and job, though far from immune to the stresses involved. In this case, she is worried about her fourteen-year-old daughter, who may be involved with a radical animal-rights group and who certainly has become vegan, to the distress of her father the chef.

Irene's colleagues are also back - Superintendent Andersson ( who reminds me ever so faintly of Lou Grant), Jonny Blom, prone to sexual harrassment, the taciturn Finn Hannu Rauhala, the other female inspector, Birgitta Moberg, and Tommy Persson. But it's difficult to place this book in the on-going series, partly because it appears out of order and partly because the four Huss novels translated into English so far have had three different translators, something which seems to make more of a difference than it should. Wideburg's translation into American English can best be described as serviceable, if lumpish, and something of a chore to read.

All the same, there are at least six other novels in the series awaiting translation. Sooner or later, someone's bound to get it right. I hope so, since Irene Huss is very much a protagonist worth keeping an eye on.

§ Yvonne Klein is a writer, translator, and retired college English professor who lives in Montreal.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, March 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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