The Murder of Halland By Pia Juul translated Martin Aitken


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The Independent Culture

Bess, a writer, lives in a small Danish town with her second husband Halland, who is found shot dead in the market square on page three. Nobody knows who shot him; Bess herself is the initial prime suspect.

But this is not your average Nordic crime thriller. There's a lack of urgency, and clues. Both Bess and the investigating police seem to show a curious lack of curiosity about the killer's identity. The themes are bereavement, and guilt, and making a mess of relationships; Bess's failed first marriage and estrangement from her daughter come under the microscope. It's a short book – 167 pages – written in a spare, cool style. Despite the lack of obvious suspense, you certainly don't want to stop reading, and the novel leaves you with a lingering sense of strangeness.