Thursday, July 26, 2012

Some Kind of Peace

By Camilla Grebe and Asa Traff
Translated by Paul Norlen
New York, Free Press, 2012
315 pages     Fiction

Some Kind of Peace explores the concept of peace and death. Life is so full of torment that it is only through death that peace can be found. 

Siri Bergman is a psychologist in private practice in Stockholm Sweden. As the details of Siri’s life emerge, it becomes clear that she is vulnerable in many ways. Her husband had died in a diving accident, and Siri hasn’t moved on from her overwhelming grief.  A young patient is murdered and left on the beach near Siri’s home. It is obvious that the young woman was killed as a warning to Siri, who has been having ominous things happen that have made her realize that someone is stalking her. Could it be a patient? A co-worker? With the help of a young policeman, her best friend Aina, and an older colleague, she begins to piece the clues together. The conclusion is abrupt, devastating, and surprising. 

Some Kind of Peace has a lot of the darkness of the Scandinavian mystery genre that has become so very popular in the past few years. The poem at the beginning of the book by poet Erik Blomberg is a foreshadowing of both the plot and the outcome. “Do not be afraid of darkness, for in darkness rests the light.” Although Siri’s patients have their own darkness, her grief and her inability to move beyond it makes her feel that she is not helping them appropriately. She doubts her own ability to treat their personality disorders. The therapy sessions have a ring of authenticity to them that comes from the author’s own psychotherapy training. We read the therapy sessions carefully wondering if indeed one of these patients may be the murderer. Additionally, we learn enough about Siri’s coworkers that we also wonder about them as well. Each has their own darkness.

Siri is not the usual mystery crime-solver, nor is she a usual victim. Her overwhelming grief overrides all her concerns and actions. The reader comes to appreciate her vulnerability and her need to heal in her own way. It becomes fairly obvious that her healing would have taken a lot longer if not for the murder, the stalking, and the help of a young policeman. It is not until the end that we come to an understanding of the reason for the prolonged grief and isolation. The title of the book, Some Kind of Peace, is appropriate because out of the chaos, Siri is able to begin to find the beginnings of her own peace. “Don’t be afraid of darkness; it holds the heart of light.”

Some Kind of Peace is very elegantly written by Grebe and Traff, sisters and co-authors. The plot alternates between Siri’s solitary and isolated life, her therapy sessions with a series of patients, the thoughts of the murderer, and the events leading up to Siri’s husband’s death. Labeling at the beginning of the chapters helps keep the plot pieces together. The translation is very well done by Paul Norlen; it is difficult to remember that this is a translated work. Some Kind of Peace is the first in a series and the first to be translated and published in the United States.

The Swedish mystery genre has become a favorite of mine. I read, of course, the entire Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, and I have also read Camille Lackberg’s novels about the fishing village of Fjallbacka. You can links to those reviews following this blog posting. 

The team of Grebe and Traff is formidable. I was fascinated about how they work together. They claim that they have created a “third voice” that writes the novel. They discuss the plot together, each writes a bit and then they speak through email and phone calls. They rarely work together. My sister and I would love to write together, and I think that working remotely and linking up by email would be a good way to proceed.

We are at a summer cottage on Lake Michigan with a large portion of our extended family. It is a testament to the strength of this novel that I was able to read it in the midst of grandchildren running around, Euchre games being played, lots of beach time, and meals being planned and executed. I received the book from the publisher and can highly recommend it.

Some Kind of Peace has just been released in the United States and there are few reviews in English for it, nor could I find the authors’ English website.

Blog postings about Swedish mysteries:
Books by Steig Larsen:
Books by Camilla Lackberg:

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