Author: Michael Hjorth & Hans Rosenfeldt
Faber RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
I love the work that comes from Scandinavian crime writers and The Disciple by writing duo Michael Hjorth and Hans Rosenfeldt is a cracking example of just how good many of them are. The Disciple, a Sebastian Bergman novel, is the first I’ve read by this talented team (in fairness, they’ve only written two and they’re only just being translated into English), but after this one, my must-read author list has expanded (again). The writing is tight, the plot action-packed and the suspense gripping … just what I want from a killer crime read. Such is the protagonist’s popularity that the two books have been made into a police procedural TV series in Sweden. If it was on here, I think I’d enjoy it.
Although The Disciple is the second in the series, it can be read as a standalone – there is enough backstory to understand Sebastian’s complex character (he’s not the nicest at times). The novel opens with Sebastian trying to bring order into his chaotic life. The psychologist and criminal profiler has more than a few personal problems – he lost his wife and daughter in the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 and has since found comfort in sex to the point where he’s bordering on addiction. His erratic behaviour has cost him friends and possibly his career, but following a stint as a consultant in a murder case, he’s attempting to rebuild his career. He has another, deeper motive for working with the police again; he’s recently discovered that a police colleague, Vanya, is his biological daughter.
Sebastian longs to tell Vanya he’s her father, but realising how close she is to the man she believes is her father, he holds back, despite part of him wanting to destroy her image of this man. What seems like a side story is drawn into the main event quickly. Sebastian ‘forces’ his way onto the team investigating a series of brutal murders – a team that Vanya is also part of. He’s not welcome – and Vanya, who has developed a rather intense dislike of him, is not the only one unhappy with his presence. It quickly becomes apparent that they are looking for a copycat; the murders bear a chilling resemblance to those committed by now-imprisoned Edward Hinde. Even worse, the murders all seem to be connected to Sebastian, meaning Vanya could be in danger.
The Disciple ticks all the right boxes as far as crime fiction goes: a troubled lead, a difficult and confronting case, a chilling villian and a tight structure knitting the sub-plots together. As the lead, Bergman isn’t the most likeable – he’s nasty at times and his treatment of women leaves a lot to be desired. However, the cause of his behaviour is soon identified and while it’s not really excusable, it allows for more sympathy. He does seem to want to lift himself from the hole he’s in, but he doesn’t always help himself. In this novel, he sleeps with a woman called Ellinor and later she ‘forces’ her way into his life in a way that’s really quite amusing for the reader – even Sebastian, is befuddled by the fact that she just doesn’t seem to listen to him and she brings out a different side to him, despite his best intentions. The psychopathic Edward Hinde is disturbing; his manipulation of some of the secondary characters are cringe-worthy. At one point, I wanted to shake the governor of the prison for being so stupid! Edward was well-drawn … and repulsive!
Overall, The Disciple is a cracking read I’d highly recommend to crime fiction enthusiasts. I’m on the look-out for the first novel, Dark Secrets, and I’m also keen to read more from Hjorth and Rosenfeldt. The ending of The Disciple left me in no doubt another novel is in the works – it was a great, not-quite-cliffhanger, ending and left me wanting more (somehow I don’t think Sebastian’s life is going to get any easier). Unfortunately, I think I’ll be waiting a while since the next book will also have to be translated into English.
Available from good bookstores and Allen & Unwin. This copy was courtesy of Allen & Unwin.
Bookish treat: Since I can’t get to IKEA for some delicious DAIM candy, I will content myself with a Toblerone. Someone just gave me one.