Ah. One of bookdom's eternal questions for mystery-lovers. I've finished my current mystery, now do I pick up the next book in the series or do I start something entirely new? It's such a dilemma. I know it is early days yet, and the year is still fresh and new, but I have to say I am having a really good book year so far. Or at least I am just really excited about the books I am reading and the pile of books I hope to start reading soon. Everything I seem to pick up has been and is so enjoyable.
I've just finished the second Mirabelle Bevan/Vesta Churchill mystery, London Calling, and will be telling you all about it very soon. Do I pick up the next in line, or maybe reach for another Mary Russell adventure or find out what Commissario Ricciardi is up to in Naples at the moment? I am sure I would be happy with any and all of them, but I realized I have not yet read any books in translation (at least I hadn't until my NYRB book showed up in the mail). Easy enough to fix that problem since I have a plethora of international crime novels and mysteries. Name just about any language and I bet I can find a matching book somewhere in my piles.
I am not quite sure how I ended up choosing The Human Flies by Hans Olav Lahlum (when it comes to books I swear my brain is like a computer running mental scans of the stacks of mysteries I have sitting about--click-click-click-click through them until I have a short list and then it is a matter of what sounds right for my mood). This is kind of a quirky one, both the title and now that I am reading, maybe even the detective, but I don't want to put it down. Just read enough to get a taste, see if it fits and then finish up something else . . . only I am now 'neglecting' that something else. (Actually it's all good and as long as I am reading and enjoying that is really all that matters).
Actually I do know what tipped the scales in its favor. The book, set in Oslo, Norway, and translated from the Norwegian (not sure when the last time I read something translated from Norwegian to be honest--Sigrid Undset perhaps) is compared in the cover blurb to Agatha Christie's mysteries to which this pays homage. It is a locked room mystery that takes place in 1968, April 4 to be exact, which happens to be the day Martin Luther King was assassinated (I didn't plan on starting the book on MLK Day--that was just a coincidence). "Of lesser interest to the history books, but of greater significance to DI Kolbjorn Kristiansen, is the murder of Harald Olesen a former cabinet member and hero of the Resistance.
I don't quite have a handle on K2, as he is known. He seems quirky, in his blue uniform. This is his very first murder investigation that he will get to lead and is very excited about. He is a youngish man, I believe. What makes me think he is on the unconventional side? The day after the murder, he was the first on the scene by the way: "by half past six I was seated at the breakfast table engaged in a fascinating discussion with my reflection in the coffee pot. We promptly agreed that this was a case I should not allow to be taken from me by one of the more senior detectives." That made me chuckle. The other draw, and I have not yet met her, is the young woman who will help him solve the crime, Patricia. She happens to be in a wheelchair. I like that. There are by far not enough characters in literature who have some sort of physical challenge. I flipped ahead a bit just to take a peek and I have about thirty pages or so until I meet her.
If you note the cover illustration you see the outside of an apartment building and so far I am meeting all the residents, two apartments per floor (three including the ground floor), and they are a varied group. K2 is interviewing them now so I am forming a picture in my mind of each and every one. This is going to be a puzzle where K2 (and perhaps me as well) carefully fits all the clues together to discover who murdered Harald Olesen. And why! And it is going to be a real puzzler considering how impossible it seem anyone was even able to get into his apartment and do the deed, as you will see with my teaser:
"The very fact that the gun was missing of course disproved any theories of suicide. However, there was no evidence that another living person had been in the flat, or any indication of how the murderer might have left the scene of the crime. Harald Olesen lived in an ordinary two-bedroom flat with a bathroom and kitchen, but no balcony. The thirty-floor drop down to the pavement made windows an unlikely escape route. Any ideas of fire ropes or mountaineering equipment being used to escape floundered on the fact that the windows were closed from the inside."
"In other words, the front door remained the only feasible option. If the murderer had managed to get in, he or she could surely have got out the same way. The door had a snib lock, and the safety chain was not on. The most pressing question therefore was, how had the murderer managed to leave the flat in those few seconds between the shot being heard and the neighbours arriving at the scene? And the second question was, how on earth had the murderer left the building?"
Good question and I am sure K2 is going to suss out the answer. In my initial enthusiasm of meeting K2 and seeing how the mystery is going to shake out, I must admit, I have already ordered the second book in the series. Because you know you have to have the next book on hand. Just in case you can't resist picking up that next book right away!