I’m Travelling Alone – Samuel Bjork (trans. Charlotte Barslund)

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I’m Travelling Alone – Samuel Bjork (trans. Charlotte Barslund) Empty I’m Travelling Alone – Samuel Bjork (trans. Charlotte Barslund)

Post by Graham on Fri Mar 02, 2018 3:11 pm

This works well as a dark Scandewegian thriller but it's not in the same league as Larsson or Nesbo, despite the cover’s ‘Global Bestseller.’ All the elements are in place: Mia Kruger, a brilliant but deeply flawed female detective, Munch her tough but fatherly boss, a fiendish serial killer and a case that involves both of them personally as well as their families.

There is a lot to admire in the plotting and the handling of the action. The characters too are well drawn. It falls down however in the use of English and it is difficult to know where to lay the blame, with Bjork or his translator Charlotte Barslund. It’s Bjork’s first novel but he is an experienced playwright (and singer-songwriter). Barslund, though born in Denmark, has lived in the UK since 1984 and has many translations to her credit. You decide. There are so many occasions where one or the other has reached for a handy cliché and not always appropriately. The reader is alerted to this when the dog that finds the first body is referred to as a ’three-year-old bitch’ and then a ‘little bitch’ and a ‘stupid bitch’ within two pages. It’s as if Barslund can’t get over her delight at discovering that the word can be used pejoratively. It is equally annoying that no two detectives are allowed to meet without one saying, ‘What have we got?’ The examples of inappropriate English mounted so rapidly that they seriously impeded my enjoyment of the opening chapters. My favourite was Kruger ‘munching’ on her medication.

The victims are six-year-old girls, so fair warning, but gruesome details are kept to a minimum and there is a lot of well-written empathy for those involved. The book is at its best when the chase hots up though it is heavy on the ‘clever detective makes stupid mistake’ trope. It is a good read with a satisfyingly clever twist, but I felt a little let down that the second major sub-plot, a young boy captured by an evil ‘Christian’ cult was resolved a little too serendipitously.

My verdict: if you’ve run out of Larsson and Nesbo, it’s the next best thing.


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