HOLIDAY READS : “STILL WATERS” BY VIVECA STEN
Today we’re talking about readings ! I’m starting a new category of posts in which I will share my opinion on the latest novels I had my hands on. You probably don’t know this, but I‘m an avid reader and I tend to devour every book I can find. Well, these days I read a little less than when I was younger, I must admit… lack of time, other priorities, etc. But as my pregnancy progresses, I obviously have to take more rest than usual, and therefore I took the opportunity to open some books that were patiently waiting on my bedside table.
A desire to escape, be entertained and relax : that’s what I’m usually looking for when I read a novel, and I don’t think I’m the only one. Hence the title of this new series of posts, “holiday reads”, which perfectly describes the books I’ll talk about : simple and fun readings, perfect for relaxing after a long day of work or for sunbathing near the pool. So let’s start with a detective novel : Still Waters, by Viveca Sten.
On a hot July morning on Sweden’s idyllic vacation island of Sandhamn, a man takes his dog for a walk and makes a gruesome discovery : a body, tangled in a fishing net, has washed ashore.
Police detective Thomas Andreasson is the first to arrive on the scene. Before long, he has identified the deceased as Krister Berggren, a bachelor from the mainland who has been missing for months. All signs point to an accident—until another brutalized corpse is found at the local bed-and-breakfast. But this time it is Berggren’s cousin, whom Thomas interviewed in Stockholm just days before.
As the island’s residents reel from the news, Thomas turns to his childhood friend, local lawyer Nora Linde. Together, they attempt to unravel the riddles left behind by these two mysterious outsiders—while trying to make sense of the difficult twists their own lives have taken since the shared summer days of their youth.
What I think about this novel
I am an ardent reader of thrillers and detective stories. This is my guilty pleasure, just like chocolate. And we can agree that even if you bite into a not so exceptional chocolate bar, you will still enjoy it and finish it, right?
Regarding Still Waters, that’s pretty much the same thing… Objectively and honestly, this novel is pretty flat, the writing style isn’t ground breaking, the plot and the police investigation are a little too easy and inconsistent. As for the outcome, it is far from transcendent or sensational.
The characters, although friendly, have a very superficial psychology, full of cliches. Hello, lonely police detective, insecure after a family tragedy ! Hello, young mother subjected to a husband who puts his career before hers ! In short, nothing quite original under the swedish sun…
But this seems really negative, you’ll say ! Well, all right, I’m going to review my opinion a bit… I still had a good time reading this novel. That did not last long, because I even had trouble letting go, I really got caught up in the investigation ! I wanted to get to the bottom of the story, I wanted to know what would happen to the characters.
This Viveca Sten’s doesn’t hold a candle to an Agatha Christie’s or Fred Vargas’, but it’s a good “holiday read”, in the sense that it gives us the bare minimum : an easy, uncomplicated read, a simple but gripping story and an entertaining time. To read by the pool, I think that’s perfectly fine…
To give a little credit to Viveca Sten, I also think that the style has suffered a lot from the translation (I read this book in french). I found it awkward and simplistic, and I even found some grammatical errors. I believe that the novel would be much more valuable if you’d read it in the language of the author, but unfortunately I don’t speak swedish yet, so I find it hard to confirm…
To sum it up : if you are fond of detective novels and you come across this book in your supermarket or in your library, go ahead and read it, it’s nice ! However, do not expect it to be the masterpiece of the century, or you might be pretty disappointed…
Next time, I will talk about So You Don’t Get Lost In The Neighborhood by Patrick Modiano, which received the 2014 Literature Nobel Prize.