Monday, 29 August 2011

Danish duo

In keeping with a fondness for reading fiction from places I've visited, I recently embarked on a couple of books by Danish authors. Carsten Jensen's We, the Drowned (cover detail pictured) could do worse than having a quote from Henning Mankell on the front (and back) and features Newfoundland - another predilection of mine - but unfortunately pales alongside Michael Crummey's Galore, my stand-out read of the year so far. Both novels focus on seafaring towns, and Jensen's work has the broader historical sweep, but the magical realist elements (a feature of both books) are gradually swept away. I don't read many books by women, but We, the Drowned - with its theme of the feminisation of a town and its way of life - is particularly male, and suffers for it.

Mercy, the first novel to be translated into English by Jussi Adler-Olsen, shares with Pedro Almodóvar's latest film, The Skin I Live In (from a novel by Thierry Jonquet), the theme of punishment and illegal incarceration. Given its Danish origins, it's tempting to point out the political machinations in the book's background, which are reminiscent of those in TV series The Killing. Out now in Penguin paperback, Mercy starts poorly but soon gets going, and signals a new line of investigation for fans of Scandinavian crime in the 'Department Q' series.

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