The hand that trembles

Kjell Eriksson, 1953-

Book - 2011

Years after the mysterious disappearance of a Swedish county commissioner, a veteran police officer stumbles on a seemingly unrelated case while Ann Lindell investigates the murder of a woman in a housing development populated by single men.

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New York : Minotaur Books 2011.
Main Author
Kjell Eriksson, 1953- (-)
Other Authors
Ebba Segerberg (-)
1st U.S. ed
Item Description
"A Thomas Dunne book."
Physical Description
310 p. ; 25 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by New York Times Review

Count on it. Whenever people lose faith in their political leaders, the popular culture reflexively responds by killing off parents. Younger heroes, from Harry Potter to baby X-Men, are easily redirected to reliable surrogate authority figures, but in troubled times mature protagonists like police officers and lone-wolf detectives are more often left reeling from the deaths of fathers and the treachery of mentors. Mark Billingham, who writes gritty police procedurals featuring Tom Thome, a detective with the London police, dives directly into the spirit of the times with BLOODLINE (Mulholland/Little, Brown, $24.99), which examines the volatile parent-child dynamic from an unexpected angle. On the most conventional level, Thorne's personal hopes of getting married and becoming a father are dashed when his lover discovers that the baby she's carrying "is not viable." But the counterweight to this facile narrative point is a psychologically twisted and strikingly original plot involving the legacy of a serial killer, Raymond Garvey, who killed seven women in four months and died of a brain tumor in prison. Now, 15 years later, someone is murdering the grown children of Garvey's victims, presenting Thorne and his colleagues on the murder squad with the daunting task of finding and protecting these survivors, some still too traumatized to look out for themselves. To make the job even more complicated, a man claiming to be Garvey's son has raised a troubling question: whether the brain trauma that altered Garvey's personality might absolve him of responsibility for his crimes. The relentlessly swift pace and high emotional pitch of the narrative may say "thriller," but Billingham has become too sophisticated a writer to settle for the cheap theatrics that galvanized his early novels. Grim as it is, the violence serves a purpose, making us consider all the innocent people whose lives are touched and often crushed in the aftermath of a crime. In one sensitively written scene after another, Billingham probes the lives of the "other victims" of the homicides, from bereft parents to kindly neighbors to perfect strangers. "He knows that it will pass eventually," Billingham says of a conductor who falls into a deep depression after two people are killed under the wheels of his train. "Anyway, he would worry about what kind of a man he was if he was not changed by it." Unlike those pretenders who play in dark alleys and think they're tough, James Sallis writes from an authentic noir sensibility, a state of mind that hovers between amoral indifference and profound existential despair. As alienated antiheroes go, they don't get any darker than the protagonist of THE KILLER IS DYING (Walker, $24), a hit man who calls himself Christian and is, in fact, dying. Although he often sounds like a poet, Christian isn't much for human emotions. But he does take pride in doing a "clean" job, and it's a professional affront when an unknown assassin steps between Christian and his designated target and botches the kill. Even as he piles up the images of impending death and decay, Sallis deals Christian a final twist of fate - the creature connections he has spent his life running away from. Dale Sayles, a Phoenix homicide detective whose life is no bowl of cherries, finds himself commiserating with the dying hit man because his own wife has just gone into a hospice. More inexplicably, an abandoned boy named Jimmie has been dreaming the killer's dreams. All three share the essential human bond of loss. "People leave us," Jimmie tells himself. "All our lives are a going-away." Maureen Jennings has always had a keen eye for marginalized members of society in critical need of a champion. (In a series of historical novels set in Toronto in the 1890s, she has even sent her big-hearted police detective, William Murdoch, into battle on behalf of mistreated animals.) The detective she introduces in SEASON OF DARKNESS (McClelland & Stewart, $22.95), which takes place in England a year into World War II, lacks Murdoch's highly developed sense of social injustice. But as the only police inspector in his insular Shropshire village, Tom Tyler can still identify those who could use his protection, including a contingent of young Land Girls who have come to work on the farms. When one of them is murdered, and then another, Tyler finds himself torn between loyalty to his neighbors and his sense of duty - a conflict that could easily take a Tom Tyler series through the end of the war. Readers who lament the loss of Henning Mankell's great Swedish detective, Kurt Wallander, can still get their fix of Scandinavian gloom from the novels of Kjell Eriksson. THE HAND THAT TREMBLES (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne, $24.99) offers compassionate insights into the minds of people who tend to brood during those long winter nights. Ann Lindell, a conscientious cop based in the cathedral city of Uppsala, considers the human foot that has washed up on a remote beach and wonders why the handful of people who live in this isolated region don't die of loneliness. But even those who manage to escape - like the respected Uppsala county commissioner who simply walked out of a meeting and disappeared - take their melancholy thoughts with them. And while the two narratives don't really mesh, Ebba Segerberg's translation of Eriksson's austere prose beautifully captures the spiritual chill of this desolate landscape. Does the brain trauma that altered a killer's personality absolve him of responsibility for his crimes?

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [August 21, 2011]
Review by Booklist Review

The fourth Ann Lindell mystery combines separate investigations touched off by, respectively, the discovery of a severed foot, a sighting of a long-missing Swedish politician in Bangalore, and the mysterious death of an old man in a wheelchair. Ann tackles the foot, which becomes more interesting after she figures out where it came from. Other investigators search for the missing politician, and Ann's colleague Benglund, on sick leave, returns to the cold case of the man in the wheelchair, which remains unsolved after 13 years. With several early scenes set in Bangalore, Eriksson adds a new twist to the Swedish crime story, one especially likely to appeal to Henning Mankell fans. The interjection of first-person narration from the missing politician's point-of-view adds psychological depth and recalls the work of Karin Fossum. The story gradually warms up, even as the cold and dark of upcoming winter comes inexorably closer. A compelling tale that draws on the complicated history of 1930s and 1940s Sweden.--Moyer, Jessica Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Ann Lindell pursues a number of curious crimes in Eriksson's subtly wrought fourth mystery to be published in the U.S. featuring the Uppsala homicide detective (after The Demon of Dakar). In 1998, Sven-Arne Persson, a powerful county commissioner, left in the middle of a meeting, never to be seen again in Sweden. Twelve years later, while living under an assumed name in Bangalore, India, Persson is recognized by Jan Svensk, a former neighbor there on business. Svensk relays the news to his own parents in Sweden, acquaintances of Persson's wife, starting a destructive spiral that soon involves Lindell. Lindell unofficially pokes around the Persson incident, but she has other, fresher cases on her mind, in particular a woman's foot washed ashore outside the town of öregrund. While interviewing the area's strange residents, Lindell realizes several of them had means and opportunity for murder, but motive is trickier. Eriksson skillfully weaves his myriad plot threads in this fine example of Swedish noir. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Sven-Arne Persson, a prominent Swedish commissioner, excuses himself from an afternoon meeting, never to return. Twelve years later, Persson is spotted by a former neighbor in India. Can this really be Persson? If so, what is he doing in India? Meanwhile, Uppsala homicide detective Ann Lindell investigates the grisly discovery of a woman's foot, severed by a chainsaw. These double mysteries are blended together expertly in Eriksson's latest entry in the acclaimed series featuring Inspector Lindell. It is a character-driven novel, and while there are a number of unusual personages in the tale, it is Persson and his secrets that will keep the reader absorbed to the end. VERDICT A satisfying read for those who enjoyed The Demon of Dakar and appreciate a modern mystery with finely tuned character development [Library marketing.]-Sally Harrison, Ocean Cty. Lib., Waretown, NJ (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

The disappearance of a small-town politician masks dark secrets and triggers a series of further crimes.Sven-Arne and his stern uncle Ante have a complicated relationship. Ante, whose shrouded past involves some important role in World War II, has controlled his nephew with an iron fist since boyhood. Many observers find Sven-Arne's devotion, which also contains a streak of defiance, inexplicable. One day Sven-Arne, a county commissioner who lives near Uppsala, walks away with no explanation from his job, his wife Elsa and his life. Over a decade later, Swedish businessman Jan Svensk spots Sven-Arne in, of all places, Bangalore. Under the name John Mailer, Sven-Arne has worked extensively as a volunteer teacher and gardener, endearing himself to locals, who reflexively close ranks against the new interloper. Taking Sven-Arne's rebuff as a challenge, Svensk becomes obsessed with exposing him, both in India and back home in Sweden. Meanwhile, there's much suspicious activity in Sven-Arne's hometown. Elsa lies in hospital after being hit by a truck, and Inspector Ann Lindell(The Demon of Dakar, 2008, etc.), along with local policeman Bosse Marksson, is investigating the discovery of a female foot in the woods. All narrative strands eventually intertwine in Eriksson's intricate thriller, which moves fluidly back and forth in time and place.Though particulars of local history and culture might baffle some readers, the depth of character and a narrative tapestry that becomes clear in small, disconnected pieces make for a challenging and rewarding mystery.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

One   It was at the corner of Brigade and Mahatma Ghandi Road that he had the first intuition. Not that he was superstitious, quite the opposite. Over the course of his career, rationality had been his trademark. It rendered him ill-suited to this country, and yet sympathetic to the Indian fatalism that he had grown to appreciate over the years. But he should have heeded the signs. First this so unexpected thought of "home": Whenever he thought of this word it was usually in conjunction with the apartment in Bangalore or, more rarely, the town house in Uppsala. But this time a vision of his Vaksala Square neighborhood rose before him. Of course he thought of his childhood street from time to time, but this time the recollection gripped him with unexpected force. He paused, was pushed aside, and came to a halt outside the entrance of a store that sold Kashmir silk. There was nothing about MG Road that was reminiscent of Uppsala. Absolutely nothing. The intense, almost insane traffic, the eternal honking, and the cloud of exhaust fumes hovering over the street, all this was unthinkable around Vaksala Square. Almost everything he saw was unimaginable on Salagatan; the holes in the sidewalk, some so deep they seemed like portals to another world--a darkness into which to descend. The stream of people, who adeptly veered to avoid the stopped man; the vendors of "genuine" Rolex watches and "police glasses" who avoided him with equal adeptness; the security guard from Guardwell posted outside the shop that promised excellent deals on shawls and saris but that in reality milked Westerners' credit cards for a couple of thousand rupees extra. No eye-catching sums but enough to ensure that the Mafia from the north made handsome profits. At least that was what Lester said. He saw the apartment building in which he grew up, the courtyard with the newly raked gravel of Fridays, the neatly edged lawns and plantings of roses and lilacs, the obligatory mock-orange bush and the unpleasant-smelling viburnum by the park down toward the railway tracks. An almost rigid order reigned over the landscaping around the buildings. An impression of immutability that he, at a brief visit many years later, could testify had lingered a surprising number of years. A utility building had been added, poorly placed and completely different in style; the gravel was no longer quite as attractively ridged; the flag post had been removed, perhaps temporarily; but the fundamentals remained, and the substantial lilac trees leaned thoughtfully, heavy with age and with twisted trunks as if they writhed in regret at the passing of time. All this came before him as he stood on the pavement along MG Road. The guard looked more closely at him, perhaps nervous that the old man was about to collapse and thereby force him to engage. Sven-Arne smiled reassuringly. The guard jerked his head but remained otherwise impassive. Was it nostalgia? Could it be called that, although before this moment he could not have been able to imagine returning to Uppsala? But suddenly this dreamlike vision appeared, as when one imagines soaring like a bird or diving into the depths like a fish. It was most likely the lack of possibility that caused his pain. He even lacked a valid passport. He took a couple of steps, mostly to escape the watchful eyes of the guard, stopped, then walked off in the direction of St. Marks Road. The next warning came shortly thereafter. After a few hundred meters, he saw a couple walking in his direction. He was immediately convinced that they were Swedes, even though there was nothing in their clothing or behavior that gave this impression. He walked toward the catastrophe without a thought of slipping into the alley he had just passed. He would have been able to get away, as he had done so many times before when he had had this premonition. But it was as if the learned defense mechanisms that had functioned so well for over a decade had now collapsed after the odd experience outside the silk store. He walked toward them, defenseless. Their gazes met when they were ten or twenty meters from each other. The woman scrutinized him, her eyes going from his face to his strange clothing (in her opinion, most likely) and then she looked away with indifference. As they passed each other he heard her say a few words to her companion, a man around forty years of age. He was sweating in his suit and tie, one pace behind the woman. She was speaking Swedish. Northwestern Skåne, maybe Helsingborg, he thought, always childishly pleased with his ability to place a person's dialect. "I think we should ask Nils anyway." Her tone was decisive, almost aggressive. Sven-Arne had time to catch the man's unease. It was clear that he did not want to place a question to this Nils. Just as they reached each other, the man glanced at Sven-Arne and for a moment the latter thought he saw a subtle shift in the man's facial expression, as if he recognized him, and Sven-Arne also caught an imperceptible reaction. The man slowed down slightly and lost even more ground to the woman. Was it just an unconscious reaction, an appeal, as if to say, "Help me get away from this woman, distract her for a moment so that she'll drop the idea of talking to Nils"? Sven-Arne hurried on his way, without turning around. *   *   * The street noise grew louder the closer he got to St. Marks Road. A rickshaw had collided with a motorcycle, and two men were involved in a heated dispute. A woman standing next to the motorcyclist was crying. Blood trickled down her forehead. The rickshaw driver was screaming out his fury, saliva was spraying out of his mouth, and he was gesturing wildly to underscore his arguments. The crash had blocked traffic and caused a serenade of honking, from the bellowing of the trucks to the ridiculous high-pitched signals from all the yellow rickshaws trying to maneuver their way through. Sven-Arne slowed down but did not stop. He had his inner crash to sort out. Afterward, when he had caught his breath at Lester's, he cursed his own stupidity. He should have interpreted the signs better. Despite the evident warnings, he had continued along the street. His goal had been Koshy's, where he returned to eat dinner once a year, for sentimental reasons. It was the only nostalgic act he allowed himself. One evening in November 1993, disoriented and hungry after having vomited on the plane from Delhi, he had found himself standing outside the airport and had asked a taxi driver to take him to a good restaurant. That had been Koshy's. Now he was going there to celebrate the twelfth anniversary of his arrival to the city that had become his home. It was, especially at first, an expression of self-torture, to test his own resolve. The very first visit had not gone very well. He had burst into tears. Perhaps it was the exhaustion from the painful journey through Europe, the long flights and the extraordinary tribulations that caused him to collapse silently at the table. The waiter became aware of his distress and hurried over, but Sven-Arne waved him away, dried his tears, and opened the menu. He was a stranger when he staggered out of the airport, and the sense of alienation had grown during the short ride into the city center. At his table at Koshy's he realized for the first time the enormity of his actions. Until this point he had been acting automatically without any thought of the consequences, from Uppsala to Arlanda airport, at Heathrow, at the terminal in Delhi. He had only one goal: to get away. The yearly visit to the restaurant was therefore a test. He always sat at the same table. If it was occupied, he waited. Then he recalled in his mind the first experiences of Bangalore, the confusion and indecision, the uncertainty if he had done the right thing. Every year he came to the same conclusion: Yes, it had been the right thing to do. What other conclusion could he come to? He stepped into Koshy's, relieved to escape the noise of the street and any possible new unsettling events. He went to the right, to the somewhat more exclusive part, pushed open the swinging door, and set his sights on the table, which was obscured both by a pillar and the maitre d'. The latter had been the same for all these years, a broad-shouldered wrestling type whose hair was growing thin on top but who still had an imposing handlebar mustache, large hands, and a heavy-set, choleric face whose expression could nonetheless lighten at a moment's notice. It came as a complete shock. Sven-Arne Persson turned on his heels and fled.   Copyright (c) 2011 by Kjell Eriksson Translation (c) 2011 by Ebba Segerberg Excerpted from The Hand That Trembles by Kjell Eriksson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.