cover image Strindberg’s Star

Strindberg’s Star

Jan Wallentin, trans. from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyson. Viking, $28.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-670-02357-8

The discovery of an ankh-shaped amulet in a corpse’s hands at the bottom of an abandoned copper mine in Falun, Sweden, propels Wallentin’s debut, an ambitious if flawed thriller. Don Titelman, professor of history with an expertise in symbolism and mythology who has evaluated the artifact, goes on the run after its owner is murdered and he becomes the prime suspect. Titelman’s search to uncover the object’s significance leads him to jaw-dropping revelations surrounding an ancient city buried in the Taklimakan Desert in northwest China, an ill-fated 19th-century hot air balloon expedition to the Arctic, and top-secret Nazi schemes. The relentless pacing only partially makes up for less than well-developed characters and a plot that strains credibility to the breaking point. While comparisons to The Da Vinci Code are unavoidable, this is more accurately an audacious adventure novel à la Jules Verne steeped in Norse mythology and Nazi esotericism. 5-city author tour. (May)