I’m Travelling Alone
Random House UK, Transworld Publishers
Pub Date: Jul 16 2015
A six year old girl is found hanging from a tree. Around her neck is an airline tag which says ‘I’m travelling alone’.
Thus begins this latest Nordic serial killer thriller. As one dead girl quickly becomes two dead girls out of favour police investigator Holger Munch is called in to lead the investigation. Of course, he’ll only do it if he can re-assemble his crack ‘disbanded’ team, including the brilliant mind of Mia Kruger (who is living the life of a recluse following the shooting of a suspect and is living a day to day existence on prescription drugs and alcohol as she contemplates suicide). Throw in a boss who doesn’t really approve, a Killer leaving cryptic clues, and one who calls the local paper to give a reporter an exclusive of sorts – as is compulsory in these serial killer stories – and you’ve got the basis of this Norwegian thriller.
As the young bodies start to pile up Munch and Kruger start to suspect there maybe some revenge motive to the killings, but targeted at who and what for? Can they put the pieces together before things get too close to home?
This is a decent enough thriller. It twists when it should twist and it does a reasonable job of hiding its killer. But it could have been tighter and less, dare I say it, clunky. I’m not sure whether this is down to Bjork [ Samuel Bjørk is the pen name of Norwegian novelist, playwright and singer/songwriter Frode Sander Øien ] or his translator Charlotte Barslund but in parts it is a bit Dan Brown and the dialogue was painful in places. This was only made more excruciating by the fact that it seemed to have been written to be overly ‘English’ , but not in a good way. This was more like a late 70s, early 80s English. So we have a Norwegian story with characters saying: Get out of the bloody way, you Muppet / every sodding footpath / bugger all / you numpty / bollocking bollocks etc. I’ll be honest, this started to annoy me very early on and continued to do so throughout the novel. Every time I felt pulled in to the story the Danny Dyer dialogue cropped up and broke the connection and made me annoyed again.
This is a shame because what Bjork does write well on is child violence/abuse: ‘Tobias should have been scared, but he wasn’t. He was livid. He was furious with all the adults who hurt children. Children should be free. To Play. To feel safe. Not to stand with their heads bowed in the kitchen. It hurt to be told you were stupid. It hurt to have your arms grabbed. It hurt not to be able to answer back because you didn’t know what would happen to your baby brother if you said the wrong thing’. Throughout the book – mainly through the voice of Tobias, a young boy, but also from a surprise source, he hits the nail on the head about the issue, with anger and passion.
Also on the plus side, Bjork gives Munch and Kruger (as well as computer geek Gabriel Monk) just enough personality – outside of genre cliches -to engage you and probably just enough that you’d seek out a future investigation featuring the pairing. Add to that the fascination we Brits currently have with all things Nordic and have no doubt that this will be a commercial hit when it hits the book stands this summer.