Where Monsters Dwell is another dark Scandanavian crime novel. I almost abandoned this one because the beginning was both violent and disjointed, moving back and forth from past to present, from country to country, and from character to character feeling interrupted again and again.
Before I abandoned it, however, I checked some reviews and saw that many readers commented that the book got better and picked up speed.
Glad I checked, because there was, indeed, an improvement when the story settled in Norway. From that point, the characterization developed and the murder investigation became more cohesive.
Nevertheless, some of the violence falls into that "what can be more shocking than a simple murder?" zone. Part of the graphic violence is necessary to the basic plot, I admit, but I do hope this author will refrain from this kind of unnecessary shock effect in the future because he does have the ability to create interesting characters and to tell a good story after he settles down to the current murder investigation. The bits thrown in to meet certain current expectations of sensational crime novels (over-the-top murders and sexual content) are more distracting than compelling.
His best success lies in the characterization of the Norwegian detective Odd Singsaker and suspect Jon Vatten. These two characters pretty much steal the show. He also succeeds in the addition of literary elements including rare book collections and libraries. Well, of course, authors, books, and libraries are always a high point for me.
The role of American detective Felicia Stone feels somewhat incidental. Her purpose is to unite the two countries in their investigation of two sensational murders, but she never comes fully realized as a character. The bit about her personal background is one of those elements that is digressive, unpleasant, and distracting.
Something I really liked is the development of detective Odd Singsaker; he is, despite a recent brain tumor, separation from his wife, and a job that can be depressing, not a Harry Hole. In fact, one of my favorite parts is the reference to a drunken detective who solved a serial murder case in Australia. Always fun to see authors acknowledge other authors and characters.
One event especially bothered me and felt dropped in and unresolved. The suicide of the book conservator.... Noted, not really explained and in no way developed the plot.
Final evaluation: After a poor and violent beginning, the novel began to move swiftly and my interest increased, and I felt more involved with both characters and plot.
Where Monsters Dwell has also been published under the title Where Evil Lies.
NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books
Crime/Police Procedural. Feb. 11, 2014. Print version: 368 pages.