tirsdag den 10. februar 2009

Ingrid Hedström, The Schoolmistress of Villette (2008).

The book has not been translated into English, but I have decided to use it as part of my 2009 suspense and thriller challenge even though it is a bit unfair (legal thriller).

This Swedish thriller takes place in Villette, a fictitious town on the river Meuse in the French-speaking part of Belgium. In the prologue, which takes place in 1961, we meet eleven-year-old Nico who receives a serious blow when he sees his hero, the older brother Daniel, crying! The plot continues in 1994 when the beloved old schoolmistress of Villette is killed by a hit-and-run driver. Her last words are, "It was wrong of us... the truth... always wrong to hide it."

Other jigsaw pieces are a medival mass grave under a building site, two missing children and some Belgian solders who lose their lives in connection with the Rwandan genocide (Rwanda is a former Belgian colony).

Now it is up to the newly appointed investigative judge Martine Poirot and the reader to figure out what is the connection between these pieces of information, and what is behind the murder. Martine Poirot is 34 years old, married to a professor of history, and apparently always attired in black Armani suits.

My view of the book: the author seems strangely uninvolved in the characters and the murder of the old teacher. Furthermore, the book is swarming with people, and the language is marred by a number of cliches and clumsy expressions, "... she was glad their parents had been spared from seeing Philippe throw his career and marriage away." "The blody corner of the mantelpiece does not come from the lesion in her head..." [Sic]

At any rate I know which designers Ingrid Hedstrom´s characters prefer, however, and the book undoubtedly lives up to at least nine out of ten "femikrimi commandments". Roughly speaking, the characters can be divided into three groups: first the idealistic women who want to bring forth the truth at any cost, and second the female victims of the third group, the dishonest, Machiavellian politicians of the town.

At some point Poirot´s female subordinate turns down an invitation with the following words, "unfortunately I do not have time, detective inspector, I am going to castrate my cat tonight. That is the only way you can prevent them from squirting all over to mark their territory." (Is this good femi-humour or sexism? - judge for yourself).

The case is duly solved, and the last 20-30 pages are fairly exciting, but far too often Martine Poirot has the answers handed to her on a plate e.g. when an inkeeper happens to trudge into the Palace of Justice with a basket full of sandwiches and is able to give her important information about a photo related to the case. I think enough has been said; this crime novel was just not my cup of tea.

Ingrid Hedström, Lærerinden fra Villette (2008)
- oversat fra svensk (Lärarinnan i Villette 2008) - legal thriller

Denne krimi udspiller sig i Villette, en fiktiv by ved floden Meuse i den fransktalende del af Belgien. Den indledes med en prolog, som foregår i 1961. Her møder vi 11-årige Nico, som får sit livs første knæk da han oplever sin helt, storebroderen Daniel, græde! Handlingen fortsætter i 1994, hvor byens højt-elskede lærerinde bliver dræbt af en flygtbilist. Hendes sidste ord lyder: "Det var forkert af os... sandheden... altid forkert at skjule den."

Andre brikker i sagen er en ældgammel massegrav på en byggegrund, to forsvundne børn og nogle belgiske soldater, som mister livet i forbindelse med folkemordet i Rwanda (tidligere belgisk koloni).

Og derefter er det op til den nyudnævnte undersøgelsesdommer Martine Poirot og læseren at finde ud af, hvordan disse oplysninger hænger sammen, og hvad der ligger bag. Martine Poirot er 34 år gammel, gift med en historieprofessor, og går tilsyneladende altid i sorte Armanisæt med tilhørende knude i nakken.

Mit indtryk af bogen: både personbeskrivelserne og mordet på lærerinden virker sært uvedkommende (som om forfatteren ikke en gang selv bryder sig om nogen af dem). Det bliver ikke bedre af, at man møder et væld af personer, og at bogen skæmmes af en del klicheer og kluntet sprog: "... hun var glad for, at forældrene var blevet skånet for at se Philippe kaste karriere og ægteskab bort."
"... det blodige hjørne af kaminhylden stammer slet ikke fra læsionen i hovedet..."

Men i det mindste, så ved jeg hvilke designere, Ingrid Hedströms personer foretrækker, og man kan heller ikke være i tvivl om, at bogen lever op til mindst 9 af femikrimiens 10 bud. Personerne kan groft sagt inddeles i tre grupper: først de idealistiske kvinder, som vil have sandheden frem for enhver pris, dernæst de kvindelige ofre for den tredje gruppe: de uhæderlige og magtgale mænd.

Martine Poirots kvindelige underordnede afslår på et tidspunkt en date med følgende replikker: "desværre, kriminalassistent, jeg har ikke tid, jeg skal kastrere min kat her til aften. Det er den eneste måde, man kan forhindre dem i at gå rundt og strinte over det hele og markere deres territorium." (er det god femihumor eller sexisme? - døm selv).

Sagen bliver naturligvis opklaret, og de sidste 20-30 sider er absolut de mest spændende, men Martine Poirot får alt for ofte svarene foræret, som når en kroejer ´tilfældigvis´ vader ind i selve justitspaladset med en kurv sandwiches og lige på stedet kan give hende vigtige oplysninger om et foto med tilknytning til sagen. Så er det vist sagt, denne krimi faldt slet og ret ikke i min smag.

2 kommentarer:

Jane sagde ...

I never read anything by Hedstrom (forgive my ignorance, but I did not even know she existed) and, after reading this review, I think I might just keep things that way. Thanks for saving me from what seems to be "femikrimi" at its worst :-)

Dorte H sagde ...

Jane, I have only read this one, and I have seen some very positive reviews of it so she will survive without my admiration - and I don´t think it is your cup of tea either :)
I wondered whether I was just being bitchy until I saw a Swedish reviewer asking, "when will things begin to happen"?