The Gingerbread House by Carin Gerhardsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The scene opens with a peaceful and majestic scene. Then disturbed by an outpouring of children and you can just feel the boisterousness… and then it suddenly quietened down to a couple of stragglers. All of these in the first few paragraphs. I was totally impressed by how well the atmosphere was conveyed.
A chance encounter, a blast from the past, led Thomas Karlsson to follow this happy looking man whom he knew to be a terrible bully in his early life. The next day, he was found murdered, head bashed and life over in a matter of minutes. Then follows a string of what seemed to be unrelated murders of people in their forties.
The book switches between a number of characters: the murderer, the chief inspector, a detective, and at times, we were given an insight into the victims but it wasn’t at all confusing. I actually liked it that I was given insight as to how things were from different perspectives.
Carin Gerhardsen attempted to tackle a number of issues in this book and while she mostly succeeded, I reckon she should have limited the number of issues to expound on. As is pretty obvious, there just wasn’t enough room for everything in a novel this size.
Straight of the bat, we are faced just how horrible bullying is. It was especially heart-rending to me as these children are pre-school age and my little one is fast approaching that age. Bullying was not a topic open for discussion until recently and whilst Carin got some valid points across, I didn’t feel it to be as powerful as her next statement.
As a little boy he was happy and outgoing. He liked people, but he realized early on that people did not like him in return. And they soon took his peculiarities and good humour out of him. IT was probably there – in preschool – that he started to turn into the person he was today. The constant physical abuse, interspersed with ostracism and name-calling, had not only transformed him into a silent shadow, it deprived him of all self-confidence as well.
A broken childhood can never be repaird. Never forgotten, never changed, never gotten over. It’s a kind of chronic pain condition.
Indifference is a crime, it is a deadly sin, is it really? I definitely think it is now… I can’t really explain spoiler-free about how this was put forward. Suffice to say I was completely stunned. Here’s a quiz for you (from the book), what would your answer be?
Stina lives in a cottage on one side of the river. On the other side lives Per in his cottage, and they are in love. The problem is that the bridge over the river has collapsed and the river is full of crocodiles, so it’s not possible to swim across. Stina longs to see her Per so much that her heart is almost bursting. So she goes to her neighbor, Sven, who has a boat, and asks to borrow it. He just laughs and says that of course she can, but she has to sleep with him first. Stina is desperate and goes to ther other neighbor, Ivar, who is the strongest, most authoritative person in the village. Everyone respects him and does what he says. She tells him about her desperation and asks him to make Sven see reason, but he just says that he doesn’t care. Sven can exploit the situation any way he wants, Ivar does not intend to get involved. Stina is now completely exasperated and tells herself that Per, who loves her so much, will surely understand and forgive her, so she goes to Sven and sleeps with him and gets to borrow the boat. When Stina makes is across the river, she does not spare her beloved the painful truth, and tells Per at once about the terrible thing she had to do and asks him to forgive her. Per is furious and kicks Stina out and makes it clear that he never wants to see her again. Stina then goes to Per’s neighbour, Gustav, who is a reliable person and cries her heart out. He consoles her and gets so angry when he hears how Per has treated her that he goes over to Per and punches him in the nose.
“now you have to rank these people by what you think about their ethics… One is best and five is worst.”
There is a third matter which I won’t even disclose because it felt like a side / tangential story with barely any punch! However, in saying that, I did some research and I think it’s to set up for the second book (of which blurb I cannot read since I can’t read Swedish! But I’m pretty sure, by the way this book ends, that this is purely to set up for the next instalment). At the time of reading though, I felt a little bit under whelmed and felt it to be unnecessary…
I really want expecting the ending. There was a completely unexpected twist; though after reading so many thrillers and mysteries, I don’t why I wasn’t expecting it. I think I’ve been lulled, naively led, right from the beginning. Whilst I’m happy for there to be a twist in the story, it felt off (ie. not quite right). Just the way a character turned out to be and the sudden change in speech pattern, it felt wrong to me. Mind you, I’m not a psychologist so for all I know this argument can be valid. All I know is that it doesn’t gel with my gut feeling.
Of course, what first attracts me to the book was the statement on the cover, “from the same publisher as Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy” but I was totally blown away by the opening and the thought that indifference is a deadly sin/crime that overall, I’m quite happy with this book.
Source: Thanks Netgalley & Stockholm Text for the opportunity to view the galley
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