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I love recommending books, but in an idiosyncratic feat of doublethink, I don’t always take recommendations well from others. I wrote last year about how I put off reading Doc by Mary Doria Russell despite my dad’s insistence that it would be a great title to write about on my new-at-the-time book blog. I’m not even sure what my problem was—I like a good western every now and then, and Russell is a respected historical fiction writer. In the post I wrote after I finally read the book in a fit of guilt, I blamed my lack of interest on the cover, but now I suspect I’m just too contrary to prioritize books other people recommend me. Admittedly, there’s probably some pride there, too. I’m a girl who obsesses over books! Who would know better than me what I should read next?
So perhaps a bit of crow-eating is the order of the day. A friend recommended Roseanna to me upon noticing that I enjoy crime fiction, and Norwegian/Swedish detective novels in particular. There's a special place in my heart for Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman, the first of his books I read and still my favorite today. My friend pointed out that writing duo (or as he memorably referred to them, “Marxist power couple”) Sjowall and Wahloo influenced my beloved Nesbo and other Nordic writers like him. Sounds like their work would be right up my alley, right? The answer is yes, but that didn’t cause me to seek out the book with any kind of alacrity. I dutifully added the title to my TBR list, and there it sat, neglected, until once again guilt took over, and I procured an audio version.
And of course, it was great and I was silly to put it off and other self-deprecating things, blah blah blah.
First of all, don’t be put off by the fact that the series was published in the ‘60s. I had to keep reminding myself that the action wasn’t taking place in the present day, as the writing felt very fresh and current to me. I could see the connections between Roseanna and the Nesbo books I love and adore. Sjowall and Wahloo, like their titular character and murder victim, were ahead of their time.
The central detective of the novel, Martin Beck, certainly reminded me of Nesbo’s crusty and crotchety leading man, Harry Hole. Neither is immediately likable, or charismatic, or even the first to figure out a clue. But there’s something about them that slowly wins you over despite their flaws, such as, in Beck’s case, the abominable way he treats his wife, or, in Hole’s case, his not-insignificant drinking problem. And the more Beck uncovers about his victim, Roseanna McGraw, the more I liked her and wanted justice for her sake.
So thanks to the people in my life who like me enough to recommend books to me. Even if it takes me a year or more to read them, I appreciate your efforts. I would say I’ll try to be more open-minded in the future, but hey, I gotta be me.