The Quiet Girl, By Peter Hoegtrs Nadia Christensen

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The Independent Culture

In the same way that Miss Smilla had a preternaturally keen feeling for snow in Peter Hoeg's best-known novel, so Kasper Krone, the protagonist of his latest magical realist thriller, has a sense of hearing so finely attuned that it amounts to ESP. "She Almighty had tuned each person to a musical key," it begins, "and Kasper could hear it." It makes him a good card player, and yet he's still managed to gamble away the fortune which he earned as a circus clown of international repute. He owes 40 million kroner in unpaid taxes and the shadowy governmental "Department H" is after him. Luckily an order of nuns offers to pay his debts in return for his help in rescuing a kidnapped girl, one of a select group of gifted, musical children born close to God, who have been used by nefarious forces to destabilise the Danish economy.

Suffused with mysticism and melancholy, The Quiet Girl is a thriller in only the broadest sense, with a digressive, frankly confusing narrative set in a fictional universe where really anything can happen. Unfortunately, in this translation at least, Hoeg's prose is just too fussy and ornate to sing like it ought to, and, like a peacock's tail, impedes his flights of fancy.