I am back, mein lieblings! Not that you noticed I was gone.
Anyway, another book review! I know not all of you are into the book reviews, but my blog, my rules and this girl loves her books. I’ve got a bunch to plow through, too, so expect Friday reviews for the next few weeks. (Squee!)
Today’s review is for Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel. No, it in no way actually involves princesses. It is not bodice-ripping romance. Actually, it’s yet another wave in the Scandinavian Crime Fiction thing. And I say, keep those waves coming.
Why am I so ho-hum about the state of US Crime Fiction? There is plenty of good stuff out there. But there is SO MUCH MORE bad stuff. I can not tell you the number of books I haven’t opened because the back cover summary says something like this:
Stone Johnson is a washed-up cop/FBI agent/PI whose days on the job are numbered. He used to be a golden boy until his wife left him/died/committed suicide/was brutally murdered along with his 8-year-old daughter. But now he’s out for revenge/glory/redemption blah blah blah
I hate these blurbs. They are so old, so boring, so lame. (And they always feature some mouthy and incredibly hot reporter/agent/victim that the sad cop messes around with along the way.)
I am quite willing to read most anything that does not fall in that category. (It’s usually not much.) And given that I’m already a big fan of other Scandinavian folks, I was happy to add Sara Blaedel to my list.
Apparently Ms. Blaedel is extremely popular in Demark, where her books are set, though this is her first book published in the U.S. I’m guessing there will be more because a lot of US writers aren’t doing this stuff particularly well lately. (Also I love that her name is really spelled Blædel.)
Let’s start with our protagonist: Louise Rick, a detective in Copenhagen. She is, I suppose, another “type” of crime novel character along the lines of Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan, Denise Mina’s Paddy Meehan and Jane Tennison (as played by Helen Mirren on the excellent BBC show Prime Suspect). She is the woman who’s a bit over-devoted to her work, whose life and relationships suffer, who’s perhaps a bit more overweight than she’d like to be or always a bit scattered and who never quite has it together. She doesn’t always act wisely and tends to rely on her instincts more than her brain.
I admit I like this kind of character. She feels much more like a real person than the alcoholic cop who’s lost his perfect family. (Also, they rarely involve a super hot male reporter/agent/whatever but instead there’s usually some regular guy and there may or may not be actual messing around.)
Louise is a very relatable protagonist, which is why the novel works around her so well. She is rather unaware when it comes to her home life where she lives with her long-time boyfriend. Her closest friend, Camilla, a single mom, also happens to be a reporter and their relationship is half close friendship and half scheming what they can get from each other. (Aren’t some friendships just like that? Especially among women?)
Let’s get to the crime itself. Louise is searching for a serial rapist who finds his victims online. Rape is a complex topic and (perhaps wisely) the reaction of the first victim, Susanne, is not at all typical. Susanne plays a strong role throughout the book and her battles with her mother and with the media make for an interesting real-life feel to it all.
I admit, this book had to win me over because I feel like the online-killer thing is being overdone. I’ve never understood how finding someone online was less safe than picking someone up in a bar, or even the grocery store. If anything, it seems much safer since you can exchange real names, photos, etc. and immediately ditch if you find anything unpalatable. But. The online element is used well, even if there is a bit too much lecturing about how “unsafe” it can be.
There are definitely quibbles with the book. I suppose it should be classified loosely as a “procedural,” since so much of Louise’s time is spent on official duties searching for a criminal. There’s an awful lot of her home life in it (which I see as a serious pro rather than a con) but sometimes her work life just seems… incomplete. I tend to nitpick a lot in American fiction because I’m familiar with our court system. I am in the dark about how Danish police and justice works, but I found it rather surprising that more than a week into the case Louise was just starting to look at a piece of evidence from very early on. The “work” element here sometimes felt quite real (like when office politics were involved) and sometimes very conveniently plotted.
I felt a bit cheated by the ending, it didn’t wrap up quite as nicely as I would have liked, the criminal’s quirks were never really explained, but it was a juicy enough reveal to make up for the multitude of red herrings that were blatantly thrown at you early on.
Overall, a solid 3 stars out of 5, which is not a bad showing for a basic crime novel. Easy and quick to read, well paced, I finished it quite quickly and never minded picking it up again. I admit I’m liking it more when I consider all its elements for a review. I probably read it a bit too quickly to appreciate them all at the time, which is a deficiency I suffer from often when I read fast-paced books.
Call Me Princess was released on August 15th so it’s new enough that you should be able to find a copy. It’s published by Pegasus Crime with Open Road Media. Currently $16.50 on Amazon for hardcover or $9.99 for an e-book. About half the B&N’s near me have a copy currently in stock (but their price is pretty high, so may want to order online for this one, lieblings).
You can also find more info on Open Road’s Author Page for Sara Blaedel.
If you’re curious about the book or the author, here’s a creepy book trailer (can you believe books get trailers these days?) for your viewing pleasure.
I was not compensated for this review, though I did receive an e-galley of the novel through Netgalley.com.