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Book review: Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten #1

Don't pick it up if you are looking for a fast-paced thriller but do read it for a female detective who has not been hardened by the difficult work that she does and leads a life as ordinary as you and me, yet is  gifted at her work.

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Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten is the first in the series of crime fiction featuring the Detective Inspector Irene Huss of the Gotenborg Police Department . Hardly the hard boiled, cynic that we know our fictional detectives to be ( From Holmes to Harry Hole almost everyone of them is fighting inner demons! ), Irene Huss is every bit wife and mother as she is a professional in a male-dominated job. Tursten began writing when she could no longer continue working in dentistry due to arthritis. The novel came out in Swedish first in the year 1998 and was translated into English in 2003.

The story of this novel is both a murder mystery and a tale of a household with its share of eccentric characters and domesticity. One of the prominent citizens of Gotenborg, Richard von Knecht is murdered and the team from Violent Crimes Unit, Gotenborg Police Department, is called to investigate it. Soon there is an explosion that guts his office space deepening the mystery. There are red herrings, car chases, Nazi skinheads and Hell's Angels to give the investigation new colours and angles as Inspector Huss and her colleagues go looking for clues, following leads in the 'dense November darkness' and rains that drape the city and provide a fitting background to the sombre story.

Juggling Christmas shopping, preteen daughters, a gourmet cook husband, a dog and her job, Irene Huss comes across a very ordinary person but then she has been the Swedish National Judo Champion and carries this flame for justice, making her very human.

This is no fast paced thriller but a slow procedural that brings to life the drudgery of the official detective work- there are work meetings involving pizza, meaningless evidence that needs to be analysed, long interviews that might not yield anything at all, stakeouts and  paper work that needs to be filled. I initially found it to be quite a drag but then when I shifted my perspective from looking at it as a whodunit to a novel written by a woman with a woman as a central character I began to enjoy the mind and work of Detective Inspector Huss.


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