Review: Detective Inspector Maria Wern is assigned to investigate the murder of a man, found with his throat cut open, all while the Swedish island of Gotland is in a panic over an outbreak of bird flu, in Strange Bird, the eighth mystery in this series by Anna Jansson, though the first to be published in English in trade paperback.
Wern's investigation should be her top priority, but she is distracted when her son, who is attending a summer soccer camp nearby, is put into quarantine after one of its councilors is found to have contracted the flu. In order to contain the virus, the country put into effect rules that anyone exhibiting signs of the flu be confined to a single place, together with anyone known to have been in direct contact with that person. A shortage of the only known drug to treat the flu is only compounding matters on the island. When a hospital nurse is murdered, it is only at this point that Wern realizes that the cases are connected.
Strange Bird is an incredibly uneven crime novel. In many ways it is more social commentary than mystery, and the two are not terribly well integrated or even well differentiated. The story starts strong, with how an infected pigeon is introduced onto the island, but after DI Maria Wern makes an appearance well into the book — on another case — it becomes a bit of a mess. Part of the problem may be due to the translation, which takes what should be an exciting, dynamic story and presents it as flat and lifeless.
Maria Wern is an interesting character, very different from many of her male counterparts from other series set in the general vicinity of this book, which is definitely a positive here. But though the storyline here is creative, it isn't all that engaging, especially since it is it easy to predict from very early on how it will all play out in the end, that is whodunit and why. Still, it is probably worthwhile for fans of Nordic crime fiction, who may be looking for a potentially more interesting lead character to get to know and to follow.
Acknowledgment: Stockholm Text provided an ARC of Strange Bird for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Strange Bird: Gotland Island, Sweden
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Strange Bird by Anna Jansson — A Maria Wern Mystery
Publisher: Stockholm Text
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: August 2013
List Price: $14.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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