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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Arne Dahl

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To purchase Misterioso

Title: Misterioso
Author: Arne Dahl
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999 (Eng. 2011)
Length: 340 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: Misterioso - US
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  • Swedish title: Misterioso
  • Translated by Tiina Nunnally

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Our Assessment:

B- : decent start and decent writing, but meanders far too long

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 23/5/2011 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Plot, though, is not Dahl's strong suit. A less than compelling story line, full of Stockholm street names, leaves the reader floundering in clueless murders for too long, burdened with extended lists of possibilities that don't pan out and a lot of talk about corporations and their board members" - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Misterioso is the first novel in Arne Dahl's 'Intercrime'-series, and introduces the A-Unit, a new, small police task force that is assigned important but complex cases in Sweden. (This comes in the wake of the completely bungled Olof Palme assassination investigation, which still hangs over the police more than a decade later, when this 1999 book is set.) It's not quite Jussi Adler-Olsen's 'Department Q' (see, for example, Mercy (US title: The Keeper of Lost Causes)), but it's a decent idea: bring together a diverse group of Swedish crime fighters in a group the works outside the usual police force and give them some unusual cases to handle.
       The group is quite an eclectic collection, and includes an idealistic former lawyer, an oversize former bodybuilder, and the obligatory exotic representative, Jorge Chavez, but the central figure is the everyman figure of Paul Hjelm. He's married, with two kids -- and, naturally, over the course of the novel he and the wife split up (conveniently putting the wife off-stage, so that Dahl doesn't have to concern himself too much with the domestic angle). Naturally, too, another A-Unit member is the attractive Kerstin Holm, whom Hjelm finds himself attracted to .....
       Someone is going around killing some very prominent Swedish industrialists -- with the first three victims: "each in charge of a group of enterprises that border on but don't quite constitute a genuine financial empire." The killings are neat, and very professional -- practically hit-man professional --, with two (unusual) bullets through the head ..... And so the A-Unit is on the case, looking for connections among the victims that might explain the motive behind these killings and lead them to whoever might be behind them. The connections are few and fairly tenuous, but include a golf club membership and, for the first victims, membership in a splinter-off faction of a Freemason-like secret organization called the Order of Mimir. Then there's the post-Soviet mafia connection, and some apparent links to Estonia.
       Dahl starts out strong but then lets his investigations meander too far and wide. Perhaps realistically, initial theories don't pan out, but there's simply too much here, and Dahl can't keep it compelling; by the time he crucifies (pretty literally) one of his characters most of the tension has long since leaked out. Typically, too, the explanation of the title only comes well, well into the book -- and it feels, like so much here, a bit forced, especially in its details.
       The basic idea of who -- and why -- done it isn't too bad, but it doesn't feel very plausible, especially in the details Dahl layers on it. Indeed, the novel suffers greatly from just having too much of everything: A-Unit is too big, there are too many competing theories and false leads (golf ! secret societies ! Estonian liquor smugglers ! Somali immigrants !), and it all goes on just too long.
       Dahl's scenes aren't too bad: he writes quite well, and if the book as a whole feels overstuffed, most of the individual scenes are just fine. Quite possibly he got the hang of things eventually: the 'Intercrime'-series has been a great success, and maybe later volumes show a surer hand, but here he's flailing much too much around (and this is also much too obviously set up as the first volume in a series, rather than a book that can stand on its own merits). For once, there's a reason why the English-language publishers took over a decade to offer this in translation. (Jussi Adler-Olsen, meanwhile, obviously took some lessons from this series -- and then went on to show Dahl how it's done; the first 'Department Q' novel is leagues better than this. But maybe Dahl did get the hang of things .....)

- M.A.Orthofer, 14 September 2011

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Misterioso: Reviews: Arne Dahl: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swedish author Arne Dahl (actually: Jan Arnald) was born in 1963.

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© 2011 the complete review

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