Review of “More Bitter Than Death” by Camilla Grebe & Åsa Träff

This is the second in the Swedish crime series featuring psychotherapist Siri Bergman and her best friend and colleague Aina Davidsson. (See my review of the first book, Some Kind of Peace, here.)

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In this book, Siri and Aina along with their old classmate Vijay collaborate on a domestic abuse study. Siri and Aina are to run a trial self-help group that would be led by professional facilitators. This set-up allows the authors to describe, as part of the narrative, the various manifestations of abuse of women, what it feels like to them, and how they cope (or not) with it during and after it happens. Furthermore, this plot device allows them to speculate on the motivations for such abuse. Is it solely about power and control? Does any of it have to do with love, albeit in a twisted form? What about the role of women? Are they ever complicit, in terms of “asking for it”? How do you determine who is telling the truth in relationship conflicts?

When one of the cases turns deadly, there is a great deal of pressure to find the answers, because the perpetrator remains at large.

Parallel developments in the private lives of the protagonists who work on these cases (not only Siri and Aina but also their colleagues Vijay and Sven), complicate the investigation, because they too are asking questions about the nature of love, and whether the pain it can create is worth the risk.

This is not just a sociological thriller however; it is also very much a psychological thriller, with an increase in tension that doesn’t let up until the very astonishing ending.

Discussion: The authors do an excellent job. I’ve read other Scandinavian crime novels that embrace the topic of domestic violence, but these authors are better in two ways. One, they focus their descriptions on the feelings elicited by what happened rather than the salacious details, which make unpleasant reading in any event. Secondly, they are never didactic, but seamlessly integrate their concerns into the plot.

Evaluation: This series is better than much of the crime fiction coming out of Scandinavia lately. I love being gobsmacked by a crime novel, and this one does not dissapoint me.

I am especially impressed that it is a collaboration of two authors. The writing is always consistent; I would have never known! (Sisters Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff apparently write these books via email, each writing a chapter and sending it back to the other to continue the story. It should also be noted that Åsa Träff is a psychologist specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy.)

Moreover, unlike much crime fiction, this series would work great for book clubs. Many issues are raised about the nature of crime and punishment, the situation of women, and the nature of love and relationships that will evoke good discussions (as in fact it did for me and my husband while I was reading it!)

Rating: 4/5

Published in the U.S. by Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2013

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9 Responses to Review of “More Bitter Than Death” by Camilla Grebe & Åsa Träff

  1. Beth F says:

    I need to find some time to get to this series. I like that the book includes discussable issues. And how interesting about how the two collaborate to write the books.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    You’ve sold me! I feel like I need to try this series!

  3. Barbara says:

    I just finished a novel that involved domestic abuse continuing down through generation after generation of a family. The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey was a riveting story showing the tragedy that comes from such abuse.

  4. Amy @ My Friend Amy says:

    hmm this sounds good.

    I notice you read a lot of Scandinavian crime fiction–what is your favorite series?

  5. gobsmacked? darn, now I will have to buy both of them!

  6. stacybuckeye says:

    I’m always fascinated by writing duos. How interesting that they each write a chapter.

  7. Keishon says:

    I went ahead and bought this one because it does sound good and you gave it a higher score than the first novel. Thanks.

  8. Once I finish with Nesbo’s series I just may pick up this one!

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