Not a review of Mons Kallentoft’s MIDWINTER SACRIFICE

If you want a proper review of this book which will give you a few hints about the plot and some well constructed arguments about why you should read the book then check out CrimepiecesEuro Crime or Mrs Peabody Investigates. This is just me banging on about things unimportant.

I started reading MIDWINTER SACRIFICE seven days before my book club was due to discuss it. I finally got to the end eight days after book club came and went. Given that it ticks several of the boxes on my list of things to look for in my reading I expected to at least like it. My second choice would have been to hate it which would have meant quickly throwing it against a wall and moving on with my life.

Instead I felt kind of…trapped… by the thought there was a good book hidden amongst the many dreary pages in which people went about their mundane lives (or deaths in the case of the ghost who opens proceedings and then hangs around being fairly banal long after he should have shuffled off to wherever it is dead people go) and barely noticed the crimes being committed in their midst. Of course they were busy being maudlin and thinking and being cold and hating each other so I suppose there just wasn’t enough room for them to get on with the business of story.

But now that I’ve waded through to the end I know there really wasn’t a good book hiding in there after all. At least not for me.

I thought the book tried too hard. It almost ached to give off a kind of literary quality and I don’t think it really succeeded because there was just enough old-fashioned procedural in there to take away from that element. It felt like a book written by someone who sneers at genre fiction and the people who read it.

Being told in the present tense with rapid changes in point of view from first person to third and occasionally second (that’s mostly the pesky dead guy again) just made it seem disjointed and prevented me from connecting with any of the characters, several of whom I ought to have been weeping for due to the misery Kallentoft created for them. But they were too remote for me to feel for.

I kept reading long after a sane person would have stopped because it felt like a course of antibiotics that your doctor tells you to finish even though the infection is cleared up and because you’ve seen a documentary about how superbugs are developing incredible immunity in part because people never finish their prescriptions so you do what you’re told, grimacing all the while.

I’m going to leave the book on the bus tomorrow because I don’t want it lurking in the house any more. And I’m not going to hurry to pick up the second volume in the series which, sadly, I already own.

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9 thoughts on “Not a review of Mons Kallentoft’s MIDWINTER SACRIFICE

  1. Thanks for the link to my blog Bernadette. I am enjoying this series but it does make a frustrating read for many of the reasons you highlight above. I quite like the narrative style but I am beginning to get hacked off by the number of crime books written in the present tense. It immediately sets a barrier up between the story and the reader. It’s a great tense to write in, but a nightmare to read.

  2. Yes, thanks for the link, Bernadette. I agree with you about the stylistic infelicities of this book, and indeed the whole series (which seem to get longer each time, though that may be subjective on my part). They get worse and worse along all the lines you mention as they go on, including constant repetition of points already made in previous books. There is something in there, if only the author or editor had not been so self-indulgent. Funny what you say about it taking so long to read as it took me about 2 weeks to get through #3 (Autumn Killing), which must be a record for me, I can whizz through a 900-page Trollope in half the time!

  3. Bernadette – You’ve expressed it so well: a literary fiction novel that had too much police procedural to be that. Brilliant! As is the rest of your review, too. And it’s interesting you mention the present tense. I’ve read several novels lately that use that tense and I wonder why the movement in that direction. I’ll have to think about that; thanks for giving me something to mull over.

  4. Reading certain books can seem like trying to swim through treacle, this seems like one of them. I’ll take the hint and avoid like the plague,

  5. Thanks for the link to my post, Bernadette. This series has elicited some rather divided reaction, which is very interesting. I’m hearing from others that the series tails off a little after the first book, but will definitely be giving the second a go, to see how the character of Malin Fors is developed. By the way, I love your solution of donating the book to others via public transport!

  6. I didn’t like this much either Bernadette. Thoughtful review – thanks for sharing it

  7. Pity he’s Swedish; if he was Danish he could at least attribute his ghost to some misplaced nationalism or something similar. I could not bring myself to finish the book (and it’s a personal point of honour to wade through even turgid stuff). I agree with your use of the words “sneered at”, because I felt the same. All in all, not pleasant reading experience for me.

  8. Pingback: 2012: Virtual Travelling | Reactions to Reading

  9. Haver just discoverd this blog. Most enjoyable.
    Dare i say i enjoyed this book. Though I do confess to being rather shallow in my expectations of crime thrillers. I am having a literary love affair with Scandinavian/ Icelandic crime writers at the moment. Description of places I’ve visited bring back memories of the good variety and not tainted by bizzare criminal behaviour.
    I have enjoyed the Lackberg series and almost spent $20 on the “Drowning” today but left the shop with James Lee Burke’s latest effort. Perhaps i was picking up some esoteric vibe which guided my hand and wallet.
    They have started repackaging Lackbergs old books with new covers and titles and I find this most annoying when i purchase books sight unseen..

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