Review #33: The Gingerbread House by Carin Gerhardsen

As you can see by the cover of the book, the publisher’s are really pushing the Stieg Larrson connection. I mean who can blame them? The Girl series was wildly successful, so why not try to cash in on that? Unfortunately, The Gingerbread House (which is first in the Hammberby series) does not live up to the Stieg Larrson name. And why should it? Carin Gerhardsen is NOT Stieg Larrson, and aside from being a murder mystery the books really have no connection. I think it’s a bit disingenuous for the publishing house to make the connection, since it does set up expectations (as silly as that may be), in the reader’s mind.

In The Gingerbread House, there is a serial killer on the loose in Stockholm and its surrounding areas. The victims are those who were relentless and cruel bullies during the killer’s childhood. Inspector Conny Sjöberg is charged with solving one of the local murders, and eventually he begins to suspect the various murders may be connected. The book also follows Petra, one of the female police detectives, who finds herself the victim of a crime. The narrative alternates between the first-person perspective of the killer, and the third-person perspectives of the victims, Conny, Petra, and Thomas, a simple, awkward man who went to elementary school with the victms. I believe it is this constant switching of narratives where the books fails, especially when told through the victims’ eyes. The victims’ perspectives are only a few pages long each, only enough to catch us up on their lives since elementary school and live their last moments. Unfortunately, the victims’ are pretty unsympathetic, so these narratives seem wasted. Also, one of the narratives in particular was the worst kind of literary tool, the multi-page back and forth conversation, where the victim and her mother talked about McDs for five or six pages.

The mystery is okay, but Petra’s storyline was undoubtedly more interesting and should have been the A-plot, with the mystery as B-plot. The mystery would have been better served if we followed the detectives on their actual investigation, rather than being told the fruits of their labours during various team meetings.

Another problem at times is the translation into English. The writing at that point seems plodding, as does the dialogue, but it is pretty obvious that the translation was just awkwardly done.

Overall, the book was fine, but I have no interest in reading the others in the series.