Title: The Murder of Halland
Author: Pia Juul
Translator: Martin Aitken
Publisher: Peirene Press
Genre: Small Epic Series, Crime Fiction, Novella
I have suddenly taken a liking to murder mysteries. More so to the ones that are written tautly and impeccably. Off late, the publishing history has witnessed a lot of thriller writers from the Scandinavian region. I have enjoyed most of these novelists’ works. The one that I recently read was of a Danish writer, Pia Juul, who I hadn’t heard of earlier. The book that I read was, “The Murder of Halland” and here is my review.
Bess and Halland are a couple. They live in a town where everyone knows them. The town is Danish and is not mentioned in the book. One fine day, Halland is found dead during dawn and close to him. No one knows how he died. A neighbour tells the police that Halland informed him that Bess killed him. Bess denies it. The story continues about Bess’s grief. The way her past tumbles through the pages and more so Halland’s past as well. That is the crux of the story.
What makes this book so different is that this is not your traditional crime novel. There are the police and detectives investigating for sure, however they are not at the core of the book. The story is a love story and at the same time there are so many layers to it. At times, I found myself confused considering the pace at which things were happening – the appearance of Bess’s ex-husband, Halland’s pregnant so-called niece, the neighbours – it almost become difficult to string everything together and that is when I began enjoying the book a lot more.
The translation by Martin Aitken is flawless only because I could imagine the places and the scenery just the way I am sure Ms. Juul intends her readers to. The words are direct, the sentences sometimes feel sparse and the narrative might also seem slow to some, however what makes the book so wonderful is precisely all of those qualities. Ms. Juul does not spoon-feed her readers. There is always more to what meets the eye and that is the beauty of this book and the writing. I finished the book in one sitting and that is how I am sure most of the people who want to read this one will read it. For me, it was a great way to start December.