This is a murder mystery novel that opens up conventionally enough — there is a trademark serial killer on the loose, and all the young woman victims have their left eyeball gouged from its socket. True to form, a private sleuth is on the scene to aid the seemingly clueless official police investigation. As the plot progresses, red herring suspects are introduced, and the denouement sort-of-twist finally reveals the actual killer. Fans of the whodunit genre will undoubtedly consider it an enjoyable read, and the plot does exhibit glimpses of craftsmanship, but it is firmly entrenched in a well-worn formula.
Perhaps in an attempt to diverge from a well-trodden genre path, the text tries hard to distinguish itself from the usual whodunit tenets, and succeeds only in creating a hotchpotch plot that sits uneasily. There are early hints of the supernatural, incest is briefly broached, and the diversions of text to expound upon mathematical theories for the pattern of murders is laborious and essentially superfluous. Indeed, I found the author’s obsession with explaining mathematical theories mind numbing — and I have a First in Pure Mathematics from The Open University. Expounding in detail prime number properties and hypotheses, Legendre’s conjecture, and the intricacies of chess board notation is really not something that is likely to entertain the average reader. I feel the author has sacrificed the story in an effort to create, what he believes to be, a clever premise for the murders. Unfortunately, if you wade through its complexities, you’re liable to find the premise neither convincing nor particularly clever.
Having read the final sentence I found myself mystified by a number of turns that laced the rather convoluted plot. Why did the protagonist’s love interest travel to Sweden to murder one of the most influential industrialists in the world? Why was the pan global, and apparent all-powerful, secret law enforcement agency SCDX unable to make headway on the murder case without the aid of private citizen? Indeed, what is SCDX? And finally, why did the protagonist need to travel the tortuous journey to Paris (in an authorial attempt to build tension?) to speak to an academic when the (plot vital?) information could quite easily have been gleaned by simply making a telephone call?
With a little application, I’m sure Johan Fundin has a good story within himself struggling to be written. Unfortunately this is not it.
If whodunit is a favourite genre of yours, worth giving it a go.