In my review of Night Rounds, I commented on the deficiency of the sado-masochism, intense violence, and sexual degeneracy in that book compared to the first three books by Tursten. Please understand, I’m not a fan of s&m, at all, but somehow the more moral presentations of similar situations in these causes them to lack the atmosphere of the first three books. One feels, somehow, that Stieg Larsson or Henning Mankell (confining my comparison to other Swedish authors) would have handled this material in a more hard-boiled fashion. Helene can do; she just hasn’t done it in this book and Night Rounds.
In his opulent ocean-view home near Goteborg, Sweden, wealthy restaurant magnate Kjell B:son Ceder is discovered dead by his wife Sanna. When Detective Inspector Irene Huss and her partner Tommy Persson start investigating, their suspicions keep turning to Sanna. After news of a double homicide in a nearby town, in which both victims died in the same way as Kjell- two shots to the head- what once looked like an isolated domestic crime now looks like deliberate execution. Not only that, one of the victims was once business partners with Sanna in a high-stakes investment scheme worth millions. Tensions rise when Irene and Tommy realize the third founder of the company has been missing for three years, presumed dead. Is Sanna the center of a web of murders or the last target of a shadowy killer?
Despite the lack of intensity of the first three books makes The Golden Calf, Tursten creates a well constructed police procedural with the engaging DI Huss at the center. Huss has a great balance of intelligence and determination combined with a keen humor and a natural empathy with others. The rapport with herself and her police partner Tommy adds a nice touch to the book, as this investigation proves to be a thorny and emotional one with more than one damaged victim along the way.
The plot is quite convoluted with the overlapping murder investigations and becomes a little tedious with the intricacies of the financial world. (Stieg did a much better job.) However, the plot moves along at a steady pace with the story pivoting between Europe and America.
Bottom line, however, I don’t enjoy reading the Irene Huss books as much as I do the Estleman, Camilleri, Fowler, Mankell, or Bradley series. The last two books just haven’t been that much fun. After giving Tursten a second chance, I may have to cross her off my go-to list.