The Frozen Woman by Jon Michelet

I found The Frozen Woman at a local book shop and because I was in the mood for crime in translation, I got it. I’d never heard of Norwegian crime writer Jon Michelet before. He seems to be highly popular in Scandinavia, where he’s been publishing for five decades. We all know that this doesn’t guarantee a translation and so it’s not surprising that this is one of the first of his novels that has been translated into English. It’s part of a series and has won the Riverton Prize for best Norwegian crime.

The story can be summarized very quickly. A murdered woman is found frozen in the garden of a notorious lawyer. The police suspect him immediately, although it seems highly unlikely that he killed her. But why was she found in his garden, since she wasn’t killed there but somewhere else? Retribution? It complicates matters that the police can’t find the woman’s identity. Nobody is missing her. She looks foreign, so possibly she’s an illegal immigrant?

That’s as much as I can say about this book without giving away too much.

What a peculiar reading experience. I don’t think that this has happened to me very often. At first I really liked this novel. Then I didn’t. Then I liked it again . . .  And so on and so forth. Funny enough, once I read the last page I thought – hmm . . . I might read another one of his novels after all.

Looking back it’s easy to say why I reacted like this. The plot is rather thin and not very suspenseful. While it starts like an ordinary police procedural, with the point of view of the police, it then suddenly shifts to the POV of possible suspects and from there to a business man, who is somehow linked as well. This made the book uneven but at the same time, it’s also its strength because the characters are so well done. They are complex and quirky, each with a distinctive voice. I especially liked the detectives Stribolt and Vaage. Stribolt is a very cultured, laconic man. A bit sarcastic, very dry but not too hardened. His thoughts made me smile quite often. Vaage, his partner, is equally unusual. The book ends with her and Thygesen getting to know each other better. Since this is a series, these three characters will return in other books or have already been in other books.

If you’re not looking for a crime novel whose main appeal is suspense and if you like crime writing duo Sjöwall and Wahlöö, and your crime to be on the political/social commentary side, this book, or another one of the series, might be for you. 

16 thoughts on “The Frozen Woman by Jon Michelet

    • Yes, I thought of you. Maybe it’s better to start with an earlier one. I think there’s another one of the series that has been translated. He’s very dry, very social/political. It wasn’t bad, I was just thrown for a while because the POV changes.

    • Me either. Never heard of him although he’s written so much. It’s very different from most books I’ve read lately. Not gruesome or graphic. I hope you’ll like it.

  1. Wonderful review, Caroline! I haven’t heard of Jon Michelet. From your review, this book looks quite interesting. I love crime novels with social commentary. Will keep am eye for this book. Thank you!

    • Thanks, Vishy. It’s sad to think that one of the best-loved Norwegian crime writers who had a career of five decades is barely known in the English speaking world. I didn’t check fir German or French translations but I’m sure it’s better there. The case is not suspenseful but it’s very interesting.

  2. This does sound good: thanks for the recommendation! (I’ve only read the first of the Beck novels, but I keep meaning to get back to the series.)

  3. Pingback: The Frozen Woman by Jon Michelet — Beauty is a Sleeping Cat – snapsnews

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