Dark Music | PS News


Reviewed by Robert Goodman.

By David Lagercrantz, Hachette, $32.99.

Swedish author David Lagercrantz is probably best known for taking on the mantle of Stieg Larsson to follow the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books to deliver a follow-up trilogy (The girl with the spider web, The girl who takes and an eye for an eye and The Girl Who Lived Twice). It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that his new series (as the ending leaves readers in no doubt that a series is destined) isn’t entirely original but rather a riff on Sherlock Holmes. dark music sees an eccentric, troubled but gifted hyper-observant professor and a young policewoman join forces to solve a puzzling crime.

dark music opens in the media for reasons that are unclear. The year is 2003 and the Swedish police have been tasked with looking for Professor Hans Rekke to help them solve a murder. The story then flashes back a few days and finds young detective Micaela Vargas as part of a team investigating the murder of a football referee. The man was an Afghan who was allegedly tortured by the Taliban before being granted asylum in Sweden, and the prime suspect is an avid local who was seen drunk threatening the victim during the game. Suffice to say, there’s a lot more to the story, but upon getting there, Micaela is pulled from the case and only manages to get over it when she reconnects with Rekke and the two begin to make discoveries. surprising about the victim and his past in Afghanistan.

Crime fiction is a delicate balance between character, plot and narrative and in dark music Lagercrantz has this balance all wrong. He spends nearly half of the novel introducing Vargas and Rekke, giving the reader little reason to care about the victim and the crime itself. As the mystery unfolds, it does so statically with Vargas and Rekke sitting in an apartment surfing the internet, making phone calls and making deductions. There is little tension and less dynamism. The only thing keeping the company afloat is the central conspiracy vanity that is tied to the actions of the Taliban and the US response to 9/11.

Hans Rekke is a wealthy, super-smart dilettante who is addicted to drugs and plays a musical instrument (the piano), he can’t help but make detailed and surprisingly correct observations about the people he meets on the thinnest evidence base and he has a brother who is just as awfully competent who is high up in government. He’s such a clone of Sherlock Holmes that one of the characters calls him out at one point. In the manner of modern Holmesian pastiches, his opponent Vargas has a little more agency than the traditional Doctor Watson. She is a dogged investigator in her own right, unappreciated in the police force as she is young and female, but also has a troubled past and a potentially criminal family.

The background of religious extremism, the US terrorist response and the role of presumed neutral countries, some interesting characters and a murder investigation all sound like an interesting setting for a crime book. But not this one. dark music is mostly a slog, with most of the mystery resolved through flashbacks and exposition and ends with a whimper rather than a bang. The final pages set up future cases for Rekke and Vargas but there’s little here to invite readers back.

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