17 June 2011

The stonecutter - book review

The StonecutterThe Stonecutter by Camilla Läckberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first thjing I noticed about this book was the sticker placed on the cover, presumabl;y by the booksellers, saying "If you like Jo Nesbo you'll love this." And the books by Jo Nesbo have stickers saying "The next Stieg L:arsson". I'm not sure what these cvomparisons are supposed to achieve, except that Jo Nesbo's writing has recently come to look like a rather ineffectual attempt to imitate Stieg Larsson. But Lackberg has so far not tried to imitate either. Other than being crime fiction, and thus in the same broad genre, Lackberg is Lackberg, and there is little resemblance to Nesbo.

But the claim made me think of the differences between male and female crime writers, and this one is obviously written from a feminine perspective. For the first hundred pages or so I thought the protagonist was post-natal depression. And it got me thinking about differences between male and female crime writers.

One of the most notable ones is that the detective heroes of the male writers tend to be heavy drinkers, if not actual alcoholics, and are divorced or about to be. Alan Banks, Kurt Wasllander, Harry Hole and several other fictional detectives invented by male writers seem to fall into this category. Even Morse, though though unmarried, was unlucky in love, and tended to booze a lot. But the fictional detectives of female crime writers, though they may have faults, seem to be able to stay off the booze and avoid divorce -- Rex Wexford, Lindley, Adam Dalgleish and, in this book, Patrik Hedstrom.

In this book the murder of a child baffles the police, and when it is followed by apparently similar non-fatal attacks on young children the police find that find most of their suspects appear to have alibis for one or more of the attacks. In addition, many of the families involved in the investigation have secrets that they want to keep hidden. There is a kind of parallel story set in the past, which show that the roots of the crimes lie in an earlier generation, and in the upbringing of chiuldren in the past. Some of the police officers involved in the investigation have difficulties in bringing up their own children.

So the book turns out to be more than a simple whodunit, but is also an exploration of the ways in which dysfunctional families can produce criminals.If you love this book, you might not necessarily like Jo Nesbo.

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1 comment:

Jenny Hillebrand said...

I've also wondered about the characters given to detectives - and wondered if they are intended to appeal particularly to middle-aged and older men readers (the heavy drinkers), which made me wonder what goes on in the minds of middle-aged men . . . Morse, I think was particularly cynical. You might want to add to your list the heroes of Dick Francis - squeaky-clean, well maybe a little blemish, and can do anything - I can imagine women loving them and men hating them. And then the heroes John Rebus (by Ian Rankin) and Sam Vimes (Terry Pratchett) who seem to be based on Morse, but are characters in the process of redemption (in one way or another). I find it quite interesting!


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