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review 2015-11-29 22:14
The Scream of the Butterfly / Jakob Melander
The Scream of the Butterfly: A Lars Winkler Novel - Jakob Melander

The mayor of Copenhagen is found murdered in his luxury apartment. Detective Lars Winkler is put on this sensitive case, which is further complicated by the fact that the victim’s mother is the leader of the country’s most radical political party and the current minister of finance. Lars notices the minister and her husband are strangely untouched by their son’s death. When he begins to dig into the mayor’s past, he slowly uncovers the dark story of a young, idealistic man, who had only one wish: to free himself of his family and live his own life.

 

I received an Advance Reading Copy from the publisher, House of Anansi Press.

It was a bit confusing at the beginning, getting it all the characters straightened out and figuring out the flashbacks, but once I had those details established in my brain, this became a pretty standard Nordic Noir. The main character, Lars Winkler, is the typical detective of the genre—he’s getting divorced, his ex-wife is living with his boss, and he’s a bit reluctant to share all of his thoughts about an investigation with his colleagues.

The real star of this mystery, however, is the transgender woman, Serafine, whose tale winds its way through the novel. I found the sections depicting her point of view to be the best written in the book. In fact, I think it’s too bad that this publisher changed the title—in Denmark, the book is called Serafine. I know very little about the struggles of transgender people, but it seemed to me that Melander really felt for this character and portrayed her extremely sympathetically.


Other than those two, the other people are little more than cardboard cut-outs. They exist only to fill their roles and they have very little substance. I hope that in future volumes of this series that they will get suitable back stories and become well rounded in their own right.

The other aspect that is written extremely well is the music—and a quick check of the author’s bio reveals that he has a musical background, so that makes perfect sense. In this aspect, the book reminds me of Mankell’s Wallander, with his passion for opera.

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review 2015-11-28 21:24
I'm Coming / Selma Lonning Aaro
I'm Coming - Selma Lønning Aarø

I received an advanced reader copy from the publisher, Anansi Press.  Opinions are strictly my own.

 

In a society where we discuss sex openly, the most embarrassing secret is to admit that you can’t make "it" happen. I’m Coming is a hilarious and provocative novel about why women fake it.

Ever since her sexual debut, Julie has faked orgasms. One day she decides she's had enough and locks herself in the bedroom with food, baby oil, and Mr. Rabbit — a vibrator with a thirty-day orgasm guarantee. Lying in bed she reviews her sexual history: boyfriends, casual lovers, and, not least, the man she married. Meanwhile, her husband and their three children stomp around outside her bedroom, along with the sexually well-functioning Ukrainian au pair, all of them wondering why Julie isn't coming.

 

Not my cup of tea. I rarely read “humour” because, for me, it just doesn’t translate to the page. I don’t get it. And this book is no exception. I really didn’t see the humour in it.

Not that weren’t some timely topics addressed—women feeling they have to live up to the standards of pornography or feeling that they are unworthy unless they are half of a couple. However, Julie, the narrator, was not a sympathetic character for me. How could I like someone who “lost” a dog, just because she got tired of caring for it? Her behaviour is so self-centred that I tired of her quickly.

Western civilization has become so sexualized—it would be difficult to have a sexual dysfunction. Plus, it is a touchy thing to talk about, although I felt Julie chose odd people to confide in. Why would she not just go to a doctor? I’m sure that Norway has plenty of professional, discreet physicians and psychologists who could help with such an issue. She seems to have plenty of boundary issues—putting up with an abusive relationship as a younger woman, not standing up to her mother about when she will get married, unable to exert any authority in her relationship with the au pair.

It’s a very limited commentary on these issues, because Julie is so limited as a human being. I certainly hope that any men reading this novel won’t view her as an average woman. I believe that most of us run our own lives successfully and don’t drift from sexual encounter to sexual encounter in some vain attempt to define ourselves. Yes, women like this exist (I can think of at least one I know personally), but they aren’t common. Sex is an important component in women’s lives, but it is far from being the be all and end all.

Needless to say, your mileage may vary. There’s a lid for every pot, as the old saying goes, and others may find this more entertaining than I did.

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text 2015-11-24 21:00
Reading progress update: I've read 70 out of 394 pages.
The Scream of the Butterfly: A Lars Winkler Novel - Jakob Melander

 

Detective getting a divorce?  Check!

 

Ex-wife living with his boss?  Check!

 

All the other women in his life are elusive?  Check!

 

The author's got the formula down pat.

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text 2015-11-23 20:46
Reading progress update: I've read 21 out of 394 pages.
The Scream of the Butterfly: A Lars Winkler Novel - Jakob Melander

Starting a new murder mystery is like slipping into a warm bath--comforting.

 

Strange that reading about death & murder should be comforting, but it is.

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text 2015-11-17 20:41
Reading progress update: I've read 62 out of 261 pages.
I'm Coming - Selma Lønning Aarø

This is why I don't usually read humour--I don't get it.

 

I'm finding this book painfully uncomfortable, not funny.  I don't like the woman who is telling it in first person.

 

Blah!

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