Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lost in Translation: The Invisible, by Mats Wahl

The Invisible
by Mats Wahl
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
ISBN: 0-374-33609-1

     A Swedish Law and Order without the Law part of the show, the point of this book may be lost in a cultural shuffle.  A case of a violent crime leaves a teenage boy missing with no trace and a detective weeding through the thinly veiled racism and anti-immigrant sentiment in the town to find him.  But the detective is not alone; in a plot device surely lost in translation, the boy is an invisible party following, almost haunting the unwitting detective, but ultimately more haunted by what has happened to him and his invisibility.  The narrative is very matter of fact, the description is stark, the ending frankly a little cheesy, and though some of the characters are developed more may be archetypes.  The book does hold a certain charm for mystery and crime lovers, or fans of Swedish writing, and has even been made into a movie.  It is recommended for libraries with large collections that contain the movie.

     Brace yourself for a shocker!  Are you braced?  Okay, you're ready: I was not a fan of this book.  What? Surprised after my glowing review above?   Self high-five for my second ever written negative review!  First thing first: I have no idea why this is a teen book.  The protagonist is a middle-aged detective! I just. Don't. Get. It. Publisher.  What up?  It's totally to sell movie tickets, isn't it?

     This book is already not the type of book I'd pick up; I've never been a huge fan of procedural books or shows.  We read it for my book club, and I'll have you know that I was not alone in my feeling that I was missing something, or that I just wasn't understanding it.  Hence, the Lost In Translation diagnosis.  Granted, it is my impression that Swedish books tend to be a little more cut and dry, matter of fact, even frank, than their (generalization) less stark, more emotive English language counterparts.   It probably didn't help that I had just finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and while I enjoyed the mystery aspects, I didn't altogether like it enough to feel like I need to keep on reading them (sorry to let you down, world). 

     Immediately picking up another Swedish murder mystery was probably not my best idea ever. This book reads like a too long short story, or an undercooked normal length story.  Too many plot points were not fully developed (hello, concept of the invisible boy I kept waiting to actually be a thing), and I was more interested in reading the part about the neo-Nazi boy than in reading about the detective solving the darn case.  Worse, the villain felt so 2-D when really, the best villains have diabolical motive, no? And worst of all, the ending was just a complete cliche.  I actually, honestly, physically rolled my eyes.  SIGH.  Don't read this one unless you really like Swedish translations or undercooked mystery.  According to several members of the book club, the movie is much better!

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