Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Whisper of an Invisible read

I've just read The Invisible by Swedish author Mats Wahl. He's written many books & screenplays in Swedish, but this is the first to be translated. It's being packaged as a YA novel; I would think this is because the characters are primarily high school students in Northern Sweden.
The premise : Hilmer Eriksson discovers one morning at school that he has become invisible. Shortly after his realization, a police officer enters and addresses the class, asking for any help in finding a missing classmate...Hilmer Eriksson. The police officer tries to unravel Hilmer's actions on the day he went missing, and Hilmer, not recalling anything, tries to stick as close as possible to the police so he can find out what happened to him. The missing persons case slowly and inexorably becomes a murder investigation.
This novel is in the vein of the very popular Swedish crime novel. There seems to be yet another Scandinavian crime writer appearing every month recently. I've read a couple and they are usually bleak and spare and quite dark. This novel follows that structure, but with not quite as much psychopathic behaviour or sexual detail. I would assume that has to do with its YA audience. It is an intriguing premise, and the narrative switches back and forth between Hilmer's and the police detective's point of view. I liked the plotting; it was utterly and sadly believable. However, I think that Mats Wahl's screenplay writing has come to the fore here; this novel reads like a screen treatment. As I was reading, I could see it as a tv special. The descriptive and sparse nature of his prose, along with little tics like trying to humanize the detective by having him on a diet (sigh), makes me think of many other police dramas that I've watched. Still, it doesn't take away from the idea of the book, and the shadowy, invisible Hilmer is the special touch that makes this a recommended read for teens. It has been made into a Swedish film, and now remade into an American one, complete with American name changes and plot overhauls.
This novel presents an intriguing take on the social issues being dealt with in small town Sweden, although both the movies appear to have completely erased the social implications of Hilmer's death. If you like sparely written crime novels, this is a good pick. If you are looking for a more in-depth read, try any of the plethora of Scandinavian crime writers out there (Henning Mankell, Karin Fossum, Arnaldur Indridason...).

1 comment:

  1. Hi Canadian Librarian,
    I'm a librarian in Connecticut and just finished reading The Invisible. I'm also a YA librarian and, though the copy of this book I received through ILL is not classified YA, it does read like one--and also fine for adults. As a huge Scandinavian detective novel fan, I was happy to discover this new writer and hope more of his work is translated.


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