Monday, 29 May 2017

The Owl Always Hunts at Night by Samuel Bjork

The problem with serial killers in mystery stories is that the author always has to come up with a different kind of psycho and a good reason for their weirdness. In Samuel Bjork’s latest novel, a seventeen-year-old girl is found strangled on a bed of owl feathers, her naked body oddly posed inside a pentagram. The owl feathers make this killer unusual, plus the fact that the victim, Camilla Green, has been starved – the post-mortem finding only animal pellets in her stomach.

It seems Camilla has been missing from her care home for three months, and the nastiness of the crime has Holger Munch and his Oslo homicide team pulling out all stops to find the perpetrator. But clues are thin on the ground.

While this is definitely a fairly pacey crime thriller, what makes this book really interesting is the cast of characters, particularly the police team, who have all got little quirks and personal problems. Mia is brought in from long-term leave pending psychological assessment because Holger depends on her knack for sensing how crims think. But her flaky behaviour has everyone wondering if she hasn’t come back too soon.

There’s also Curry, struggling with a gambling addiction and relationship problems, as well as Gabriel, an ex-hacker eager to prove his worth among traditional cops. Even Holger himself is having to face up to the imminent nuptials of his ex-wife and unexplained headaches.

There’s a lot going on, and the narrative juggles multiple viewpoints plus the odd flash-back. But somehow the suspense never lets up. Or is it just that brooding intensity you can expect from Scandinavian mystery novels, the darkness of the crime and the chilly climate? This intensity picks up with a thrilling showdown at the end, however, and a conclusion which suggests that Holger and Mia have things to resolve in their next outing together.

I shall look forward to it. The Owl Hunts at Night is first rate Nordic Noir and fans of this genre should definitely add Samuel Bjork to their must-read list.

Posted by JAM

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