cover image The Murder of Halland

The Murder of Halland

Pia Juul, trans. from the Danish by Martin Aitken. Coach House (Consortium, U.S. dist.; PGC, Canadian dist.), $18.95 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-1-55245-314-8

The first North American release of Juul's 2009 novel, which won Denmark's Danske Banks Litteraturpris, is long overdue. The story follows Bess, a deliciously selective narrator, in the wake of the death of her famed lover, Halland. His murder triggers a chain of events and discoveries, including the revealing of Halland's double life with his pregnant foster niece, Pernille, whose baby might be Halland's, and the restoration of Bess's relationship with her daughter. But the book's primary focus is on more existential revelations. Juul concerns herself principally with character, and her writing is sparse, ascetic, and exquisite, especially when she writes atmospheric passages or captures the novel's central ethos through Bess's love of TV police procedurals. Bess admits, "The puzzle attracted me%E2%80%94the solution left me cold. Nothing like real life." Apropos, the book is intentionally without resolution; Halland's murder left unsolved, though readers have enough information to draw their own conclusions. But his death isn't the point; it's the catalyst for a beautifully wrought narrative about reclamation, letting go, and moving on. This Nordic murder mystery cum existential novel will appeal to fans of Banana Yoshimoto, Jedediah Berry, and Sara Gran's Claire DeWitt mysteries. (Nov.)