Which is worse, trying to catch a cunning killer leaving decapitated women in the woods, or trying to tame an unconventional forensic psychiatrist that seems determined to go his own way?
The Oslo autumn is creeping in with its cold spells and Homicide Detective Julia Ryland is feeling pretty content with her team of three, but when the FBI behavioral analyst, Alexander Smith, is thrust upon her, the crisp autumn air doesn’t feel as refreshing anymore. A young Icelander is found dead, an arrow piercing his heart and the extensive list of his former lovers suggests that many long nights are ahead. The murdered lothario suddenly becomes the least of their problems as headless corpses start appearing in the woods, positioned in terrifying ways and on their bodies they find messages that don’t seem to have any meaning at all.
I jumped at the chance to read and review Loner by Hildur Sif Thorarensen. I do enjoy a slice of Nordic Noir and Loner promised that with humour as well.
Loner is the first in Thorarensen’s Oslo Mysteries and it follows Detective Julia Ryland of the Oslo police department and her colleague, criminal psychiatrist, Alexander Smith. This first book starts with the body of a young Icelandic man being found and escalates when the bodies of young women start to be discovered.
The prologue is really nicely written with oodles of atmosphere and it totally draws you in. It perfectly sets up the first murder and the setting and had me keen to read more. The prologue demonstrates that Thorarensen has real potential as a writer.
From the prologue Loner became like no other crime novel I have read before. It is full of quirky characters who deviate from your usual crime book. They behave in ways that you don’t normally see in police procedurals and I can imagine that some readers may find this aggravating. With the exception of Julia Ryland, none of the characters seem to behave in a ‘typical’ way giving the sense that they don’t take the whole thing seriously and they do come across as infantile. The author has intentionally added the humour to Loner, and while I have enjoyed humorous crime novels in the past, the humour in this one wasn’t my cup of tea. My sense of humour tends to be more on the dark side and so this doesn’t mean that others will not enjoy it. I did, however, wonder at times if something had been lost in the translation. For me, the characterisation let it down a little as I struggled to take them seriously.
I really enjoyed the crimes – that sounds so wrong, but you know what I mean – and where it took the characters and the twists are well-plotted and surprising. I certainly didn’t predict where it was going. Loner is the first in a series and while part of the story was concluded there are other parts that are not, so don’t go into this book expecting it to be all tied up at the end.
The antagonist makes for an interesting character and the themes around him are ones I really liked. Thorarensen uses religion and psychology to give the added chill factor to Loner.
If you are after a change from your usual crime fiction novel and you like quirky give Loner a try. I have to say it didn’t blow me away and as stated I wonder if something was a little lost in the translation. It will be interesting to see how Thorarensen develops her writing and the characters in the next book in the series.
Loner was published on 30 May 2018 by Antonov Publishing. You can get a copy HERE.
Thank you to Hildur Sif Thorarensen for the copy in exhange for my review.