Friday, February 14, 2014

Where Monsters Dwell

Where Monsters Dwell by Jørgen Brekke
St. Martin's Press: 2/11/2014
Hardcover, 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9781250016805

A murder at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, bears a close resemblance to one in Trondheim, Norway. The corpse of the museum curator in Virginia is found flayed in his office by the cleaning staff; the corpse of an archivist at the library in Norway, is found inside a locked vault used to store delicate and rare books. Richmond homicide detective Felicia Stone and Trondheim police inspector Odd Singsaker find themselves working on similar murder cases, committed the same way, but half a world away. And both murders are somehow connected to a sixteenth century palimpsest book—The Book of John—which appears to be a journal of a serial murderer back in 1529 Norway, a book bound in human skin.
A runaway bestseller in Norway, Jørgen Brekke's Where Monsters Dwell has since sold to over fourteen countries. Where Monsters Dwell is the most awaited English language crime fiction debut in years.
My Thoughts:

Where Monsters Dwell by Jørgen Brekke is a highly recommended murder mystery for fans of Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs.

Originally published in Norway, Where Monsters Dwell by Jørgen Brekke follows a serial killer who is discovered through the investigations into two murders. The crimes are eerily similar - both involve flayed corpses with the heads removed - only one murder is in Richmond, Virginia, while the other is in Trondheim, Norway. Clues in both crimes show a connection to an old, rare book. Investigators in this mystery are  Richmond homicide detective Felicia Stone and Trondheim police inspector Odd Singsaker. But at the heart of the book is the story of the rare Johannes Book and a set of knives. It was an odd collection of texts from the 1500s, written on parchment by a mendicant monk, who seems to know a lot about anatomy.

The plot itself, with its multiple narratives, is complicated but most readers are going to be able to follow the action and keep the characters straight. Storylines include those in Richmond, Trondheim, and from the original writer of the rare book, starting in 1528. Where Monsters Dwell opens with the murder of a mother and child and then jumps back in time to 1528 before returning to the present. These transitions from place to place and back and forth in time continue throughout the book, keeping all narratives moving along at an equally frantic pace. 

This is a well written, intelligent mystery. Brekke provides a plethora of information and clues for the reader, along with one character, Siri, who gives actual mini-lectures on how to evaluate a crime novel.  Where Monsters Dwell reads smoothly, so I'm assuming that there were no problems in translation. There are a few little descriptions/comments to which those living in the USA might object or at least shake their heads.

There are parts that are disturbing and gruesome, so this may not be a good choice for those who prefer cozy mysteries. There are also several sexual scenes that seem gratuitous and don't really add to the actual plot. There were a few times when descriptions made me shake my head, such as this description of Felicia: "She’d recently passed thirty, but she still looked young." Really? Maybe that is because she IS young. 

In the end this is a satisfying mystery. Hopefully we can look forward to more novels by Brekke translated from the Norwegian since it appears that this might be the start of a series featuring Felicia and Odd as an investigative team in Norway.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books, via Netgalley for review purposes.

No comments: