“What did he say? Think. Try to remember. It might be very important.” Gunvor struggles to hide her impatience.
“Something about how even your dreams can be dangerous. About how I should keep my dreams as just dreams. And that if you try to make a dream come true you can mess up everything. You can ruin your life. That’s what he said. That your whole life can be destroyed.”
Gunvor Strom hooked me almost immediately -- she's a feisty woman in her 60s who we meet as she's helping a young woman deal with a handful of teen males harassing her. She's creative, crafty, wily and ruthless in this, and it's a great way to bring in an audience.
We quickly learn that Gunvor is a rookie Private Investigator, forced to leave her career and changing her life after a divorce, she signs on to a Private Investigative Agency and mostly does grunt work -- but does get the opportunity to do some investigative work. As much as she misses her old life, she relishes this new one (although she might like joints that are a little less painful).
Gunvor is assigned to find out what's behind a husband's odd behavior -- the client, his wife, adamantly refuses to accept the idea that he's being unfaithful, but his behavior is different and troubling. Gunvor isn't on the case for long before she decides she could use a few more eyeballs -- so she recruits, oddly enough, Elin (the young woman above) and David -- the ringleader of those harassing her. She's a student, he's unemployed -- and both need something in their life to care about, neither one of them realized that they were interested in investigative work.
Really, this book has two stories -- one is the investigation into this man -- and things get violent shortly after the trio gets to work. It's at this point that the husband talks about the potential of dreams to destroy your life. If anything, this violence causes Gunvor and the rest to work harder -- not long afterwards there's a murder and the number and types of criminal activity that they're investigating grows and grows.
The other story is following the development of Gunvor as an investigator and her two young protégés. Elin discovers sides to her personality that surprise her (and Gunvor, actually), and really comes out of her shell. David, on the other hand, response to the trust and responsibility given him by rising to the occasion and even maturing a little bit. Now, none of these characters grow perfectly or in a straight line -- there are ups and downs to this development == and the suggestion is that this will continue after this book.
Both stories are wholly satisfying and serve each other well. The conclusion is as tense and taught as you can hope for, and at a certain point, you'll forget that the trio you're rooting for aren't the kind of detectives you're used to, all you know is that you're hoping they survive.
This book, time and time again, came so close to wowing me -- the clever twists, the dramatic turns, character development, and so on -- but almost every time that Miller brushed against "great" she ended up settling a few notches down at being really good. Is it possible that if this was written in English, or set somewhere that I understood more than Stockholm that I'd be able to appreciate more nuances and rate it higher? Absolutely. But it wasn't, so I can wish I understood what it means for someone to be from X neighborhood/district versus Y, and missing other things that don't come through the translation as cleanly as they might.
ON the whole, this was just a pleasure to read -- it grabbed my interest from the beginning and never let go. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for the sequels, I can assure you, and I expect most readers will find the book as compelling.