Title: The Chestnut Man
Author: Søren Sveistrup
Translated by: Caroline Waight
Source: Borrowed (library)
One Sentence Synopsis
Two detectives who are stuck together are assigned to investigate a series of murders involving a creepy little stick figure.
Honestly, nothing that jumps to mind *shrug*
As I sit here, shivering whilst I eat ice cream in the middle of winter, I’m trying to parse my extremely mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, this was a damn good thriller. This book is the definition of a page-turner. You open the book and a woman is already getting brutally murdered! Then we met our two detectives, Thulin and Hess. Thulin is a woman who is trying to get out of homicide and apply her considerable skills in another department. Hess is a man just cruising through the motions until he gets to go back to his real job. That is until they start investigating the murder previously alluded to and things aren’t as they seem.
I found this book fast-paced and hard to put down. I needed to know what was going to happen next and I found myself racing the pages trying to figure out who could be the Chestnut Man.
And then I figured it out about halfway through the book and it all went downhill from there.
Once I wasn’t so focused on figuring out whodunit, I found myself focusing more on the writing. Though the writing was compelling, it felt very formulaic. It was like I was watching an episode of Law & Order: SVU that I had seen 100 times before. I mean, it does make a kind of sense because the author is a screenwriter. I just wish it wasn’t quite so obvious in his novel. And I wish it had done something to break out of the typical crime novel model.
The characters also felt very flat to me. Like they were actors performing a part as opposed to “real” people. I would have liked to have Thulin especially fleshed out more. She was by far the most interesting character, but it felt like she was just there to be the stereotypical “badass female who takes no shit.” I just wish she had had more layers. The same can be said for our lead male character, too. Hess was just so boring… I felt like there was a missed opportunity to have some truly complex characters.
The other issue I have with this book is something I have a hard time describing. This is a novel that focuses a lot on violence against women. All of the murder victims are women. I get that is a common theme in mystery/thriller novels. But the way this author wrote the violent scenes just made it feel very… exhibitionist? Like it was making it over the top for a cheap shock. It felt gross, to be honest. I’m not a squeamish person but it just didn’t sit well with me.
Final thoughts: If I was rating this book on readability and plot alone, it would be solid four stars. The lack of complex characters, the formulaic writing, and the in-your-face attempt to be shocking knocked it down to three. Still, I think I would give this author another try.
Have any of you read this book? What were your thoughts on it?
Let me know in the comments!
And, as always, happy reading!