Written by Sara Blædel – Lovers of Scandinavian crime fiction will be pleased to hear that there’s a new kid on the Nordic noir block. Call Me Princess is the Danish writer Sara Blædel’s debut novel in English, having penned eight in her mother tongue. It introduces us to the detective Louise Rick of the Copenhagen Police Department.
When a woman is brutally raped in her flat, the case is assigned to Rick, who is faced with the task of trying to coax information out of the deeply traumatised victim. She is an extremely focused young detective but her task is not an easy one. She has two obstacles she needs to overcome; an overbearing mother who thinks that she is protecting her daughter, and a victim who she knows is hiding certain facts about the attack.
With some gentle coaxing, Rick is able to ascertain that our victim, Susanne, met her attacker through an internet dating agency, and this may not have been his first assault. However, Susanne is unable to give a detailed description of the rapist and the trail appears go cold straight away. With no suspects or any useful evidence at the crime scene, this is not looking like an easy crime to solve. When the rapist strikes again with fatal consequences, the detective and her team quickly realise they need to take themselves into his virtual world if they are to stop him.
The reader follows the investigation with Louise. It’s a step by step process, so for much of the book the reader is as in the dark as she is, but by the final reveal you’ll be satisfied with how the conclusion was reached. The rape scenes are not gratuitous but focus on the attack from the victim’s perspective. In Susanne’s case, we not only see snippets of what happened to her, but we’re given an insight into what she was thinking while she was being attacked. In some ways this is a cautionary tale which has two main themes running through it – sexual violence against women and the world of online dating. It does feel as though Blædel is challenging our perceptions of reality and vulnerability when it comes to the internet, as she highlights the ease with which the perpetrator is able to lull his victims into a false sense of security, creating a persona that they believe un-questioningly to be real.
This is a book that takes you back to the good, old-fashioned style of police procedural novel, which fans of the Martin Beck series may enjoy, but with a distinctly modern twist. It’s a pretty easy book to read and will keep you on the edge of your seat. A promising start for Blædel’s detective, newly translated into English. The book is hardcover only in the UK currently – hopefully there will be a Kindle edition soon.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars