The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson
Last summer was the summer that everyone read Steig Larsson’s novels The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. This summer you’ll be reading a whole new selection of Scandinavian mystery novels by many writers.
The first that I have read and will recommend is The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson. This is the first in a new series featuring detectives Ola Haver and Anne Lindell, and the winner of The Swedish Crime Academy Award for Best Crime Novel in 2006. After reading a great many Henning Mankell mysteries this winter I found myself initially having a bit of a struggle getting to know these unfamiliar detectives. But, before long I found that as I got to know them, Ola – unhappily married but not yet ready to make a break, or do what need to be done to repair the rift – and Anne, nearing the end of her maternity leave and drawn into the current investigation, I liked them more and more as I read.
The central investigation is into the murder of “little John” Jonsson – a quiet little man, husband of Berit and father of the teenage, Justus. He once held a job in a foundry – but is now laid off. The family struggles to live on Berit’s income as a personal care worker – a slightly less than middle class family. Little John’s hobby is the collecting of tropical fish – especially a species called “princess of Burundi”, a hobby he can’t really afford, but he finds such great please in having the largest aquarium in town that Berit cannot bring herself to criticize him. Their marriage appears to be a secure marriage of long standing.
When Little John is found dead, in the snow one morning, just before Christmas no one can at first believe he has been murdered. This innocuous little man, who had been led astray into some petty crime as a young man by his brother Lennart, does not seem, at first, to be a likely murder victim.
As Haver investigates with a team of detectives, Lennart also circulates among John’s friends and acquaintances looking for anyone with a motive for killing his brother. Lennart is a bit of an unhinged character – still a petty criminal, well known to the police – and his search for John’s killer soon becomes an obsession.
Berit meanwhile is mourning the death of her husband, trying to care for her son, who worshipped his father. But, it is Justus who knows a secret that John was keeping from his wife, his brother and everyone. He was, it seems, biding his time before revealing what may well have gotten him killed.
There is a teaser chapter for the next book at the end of this one – read it and you’ll be back for more!