Title: Evil Water
Author: Inger Wolf
Publisher: Black Cat Edition
Publication Date: December 15, 2012 (English translation)
Source: e-copy received from publisher for an honest review
Plot Summary from Goodreads:
Two women disappear without a trace, and the same autumn a farmer on the outskirts of Århus finds them murdered in suitcases under a heap of stone. The skin of one woman is filled with the letter Y, and the other has a rare flower in her hair. Inspector Daniel Trokic is leading the case which goes in several directions: to a tribal population in Africa, religious insanity, and a horrifying meeting with leeches. When a third woman disappears, Trokic is under pressure to find out what the killer wants to say with his macabre scenery and rituals.
When I was offered this book for review, I'll admit it: I read the description and immediately thought, "Oooooh dark Scandinavian mystery! How Dragon Tattoo-ish!" On that alone, I knew I had to give it a try.
Evil Water is the first of Inger Wolf's novels that have been translated into English (from the original Danish). I was initially under the impression that this was Wolf's debut novel, but in fact, she has several other books previously published (all in Danish). This is important to know beforehand, because the other novels also include Daniel Trokic as the protagonist, so this is a bit of a series. I didn't realize this until partway through the novel, when it became obvious that the plot was referencing things that had happened in other books. Once I figured that out though, it didn't detract from my reading of the novel, and in fact made me wish the other books were available in English as well. (I do have to note that the translation leaves something to be desired at times...word choices are a bit awkward throughout, which is off-putting, but I considered this to be a reflection of the translation rather than the writing itself.)
This is a dark mystery for sure. Trokic and his crew are combing through some pretty grisly murders, so this is not for the faint of heart! The pacing is fantastic. I know I compared it to the Dragon Tattoo books above, but Evil Water moves along much more quickly and concisely than that series. I felt like something new was being revealed on each page, and there was very little of the drawn-out background information that you often get in longer mysteries. I had no problem getting hooked right at page one.
Another plus for this novel: the characters. Trokic is a great lead detective, and all the references to Wolf's other novels made me wish I had more of the background on him. The other characters (especially the other detectives) are very unique, which is great because they each bring a separate POV when you see the crime through their eyes.
Wolf throws a ton of red herrings in along the way, which left me constantly second-guessing the supposed identity of the killer. There were several points where I was POSITIVE I knew who the killer was, only to be proven wrong a page later. The ending was pretty creative, though I will say I felt that the steps to get there were sometimes contrived. I won't give any spoilers, but there are several parts where the characters suddenly dovetail a conversation in a very awkward way that is obviously meant to bring a new clue to light. The clues were all relevant, but I wish they were worked into the plot more naturally, as this made the action feel stilted at times.
If you look up the term "page-turner" in the dictionary, a picture of Evil Water is next to it. If you want a fast-paced, twisted thriller, this is a great choice. The translation and some of the clue-drops were not ideal, but overall I'm glad that I dove into Trokic's world. Here's hoping that more of Wolf's novels become available in English as well!
Other reviews of Evil Water:
The Yellow-Haired Reviewer
Valli's Book Den
I Am, Indeed
What say you, readers? Have you read any good crime thrillers lately?