tirsdag den 10. marts 2009

Kjell Ola Dahl, The Fourth Man (2008)

2009 suspense and thriller reading challenge: Art crime aka Literary thriller


This Norwegian crime novel is the fourth in a series, but the first in English, I believe. As usual we meet the police officers Gunnarstranda, Yttergjerde and Frølich (K.O. Dahl is not exactly preoccupied with their titles but Gunnarstranda is certainly their superior).

The book begins with a long story in which Frank Frølich literally falls for (over) a woman, who is involved in one of his cases. Frølich is besotted, yet he has his doubts as to whether Elisabeth Faremo is an insecure and vulnerable woman, ´a men´s magazine picture come alive´ or just a modern, liberated woman. Furthermore he realizes that her brother has been sentenced for robbery, but Frølich is unable to stay away from her.

Temperamental Gunnarstranda flares up when he learns about the relationship, and orders his subordinate to take some time off as the only alternative to suspending him. Gunnarstranda´s team consists mainly of tough cops who enjoy sexual and coarse jokes which makes Frølich´s love story seem a bit contrived, as if a mysterious and romantic Robert Goddard femme fatale has suddenly materialised in Oslo. Otherwise the plot is well-planned and carried out with much suspense in the end.

Men and masculinity play a large part in this crime story with slightly cynical lone rangers who neglect the rules, ´solve´ problems by means of cigarettes, alcohol and time off - or by watching aquarium fish. Men who regard women with suspicion, a subspecies who are seen not as individuals but as types: the hateful lesbian, the helpful stripper, the dangerous femme fatale, etc. Women who are rarely called by the neutral Danish term "kvinde", but turn into "dame" (i.e. "lady") which in modern Danish rarely means ´a refined woman´ but rather ´someone you date/may have a sexual relationship with´, and usually one of a number of female acquaintances (e.g. ´she is one of his ladies´). Another term is ´kvindfolk´, meaning ´womenfolk´ but always used as a derogatory or humorous term, and certainly never about friends or partners on equal terms.

I think the author tries to make some of the characters rounded and credible, but in my opinion it never really works - not even Gunnarstranda and his lonely goldfish. To sum up my point, this is a world in which men and women do not enter into equal relationships, and where they never really try to communicate with each other.

Kjell Ola Dahl, Den fjerde røver (2008).
2009 suspense and thriller reading challenge: Art crime aka Literary thriller

Denne norske krimi er den fjerde i Dahls serie. Vi møder som sædvanlig Gunnarstranda, Yttergjerde og Frølich (Dahl strør ikke lige frem omkring sig med titler, men Gunnarstranda er da i hvert fald den overordnede).

Bogen begynder med en lang forhistorie hvor Frank Frølich rent bogstaveligt falder for (over) en kvinde, som er involveret i en af hans sager. Frølich er hårdt angrebet, samtidig med at han er stærkt i tvivl om hvorvidt Elisabeth Faremo er en usikker og sårbar kvinde, ´et levende motiv fra et glittet mandeblad´, eller bare en moderne, frigjort kvinde. Undervejs opdager han endvidere, at hendes bror er tidligere straffet for røveri, men han er ude af stand til at holde sig fra hende. Ellers er plottet veltilrettelagt, og der er masser af spænding mod slutningen.

Temperamentsfulde Gunnarstranda farer naturligvis op, da han hører om Frølichs forhold, og beordrer sin underordnede til at gå på ´afspadsering´ for ikke at blive tvunget til at suspendere ham. Gunnarstranda og hans team består hovedsageligt af barske strissere, som sætter stor pris på seksuelle og grovkornede vitser. Frølichs historie virker derfor lidt påklistret, som om en mystisk og romantisk Robert Goddard-agtig femme fatale pludselig er dumpet ned i Oslo.

Mænd og maskulinitet fylder meget i denne krimi, hvor kriminalbetjentene er lettere kyniske enspændere som ser stort på reglerne, ´løser´ problemer ved hjælp af cigaretter, alkohol og afspadsering - eller ved at betragte svømmende akvariefisk. Mænd, som er fyldt med mistro overfor kvinder, en afart som fremstår mere som typer end som rigtige personer: den hadske ´lebbe´, den hjælpsomme stripper, den mystiske og farlige femme fatale osv. Kvinder, som netop ikke kaldes ved det neutrale ord "kvinde", men bliver til "damer" (som man kan have et seksuelt forhold til) eller "kvindfolk" (generelt nedsættende glose), men aldrig have som ligeværdige venner eller partnere.

Forfatteren gør vist nok forsøg på at gøre nogle af sine personer facetterede og troværdige, men det virker ikke overbevisende. Måske ikke engang Gunnarstranda med den ensomme slørhale. For kort at opsummere min pointe, er dette en verden, hvor mænd og kvinder ikke indgår i ligeværdige forhold, og aldrig gør noget reelt forsøg på at forstå hinanden.

11 kommentarer:

J. Kaye sagde ...

Good for you! I really need to get moving on the S/T Reading Challenge. I'm way behind!

Dorte H sagde ...

Thanks Kay, I really think I am making progress - perhaps because I am only participating in ONE challenge (plus Blog Improvement Project).
I may try some more in the future, especially if they involve crime fiction.

J. Kaye sagde ...

My first year, I only signed up for a couple too. Now I've gone challenge crazy. ;)

Dorte H sagde ...

I would never call you that, Kay, but having seen your blog I know what you are talking about ;)

Peter Rozovsky sagde ...

I wonder if Dahl shares the attitudes of his macho characters.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
“Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Dorte H sagde ...

Peter, you may have seen my comments on your own blog now, but I don´t think the author is like this at all.
I think it is a kind of Dashiell Hammet parody or something of that kind, and the reason why I stressed the male-female relationship so much was first of all that it went so well with my ´macho in March´ theme. And you who are so interested in linguistic aspects should appreciate the comment on the difference between ´dame´ and ´kvinde´. I tested the word on my husband and two daughters, and we all agree that the term ´dame´ does not signal equality (you can have an affair with one, but you´d never marry her).

Peter Rozovsky sagde ...

Did critics and readers in Denmark react to the book the same way you did? Perhaps parodies or deiberately retro takes on old-style hard-boiled crime are more easily accepted as such in the culture where hard-boiled originated.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Dorte H sagde ...

Peter, I have just checked some Danish reviews. 90 % of them are from the same source (a short professional & rather bland one) and they do not comment on the genre. The Danish publisher calls it ´traditional police procedural´ or something like that, and I have only been able to find one review by a woman. She seems positive but not over-thrilled. So all in all the reaction in Denmark is not what I´d call enthusiastic.

Peter Rozovsky sagde ...

But the reviewers did not seem troubled by the macho angle?

I'll have to read the book myself if I plan to persist in discussing it.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
“Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Dorte H sagde ...

No, I can´t say they seemed troubled by it.
My general impression is, though, that some of them are less engaged in this book than in Dahl´s earlier ones.

And I agree, if you really are so curious about the book, you should read it :)
You may enjoy it, and that is fine with me, it is just not quite what I want.

Peter Rozovsky sagde ...

I just may have a copy lying around the house. I wouldn't take odds on finding it, but I'll take a look.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/