cover image The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect

Pernille Rygg. Harvill Press, $26 (256pp) ISBN 978-1-86046-311-2

In a wintry Scandinavian landscape, a restless young woman scientist estranged from a wealthy parent gets involved in the investigation of the death of someone close to her. No, it's not Smilla's Sense of Snow, but Norwegian Rygg has written an equally atmospheric (and derivative) first novel. Igi Heitmann is a researcher trying to link psychology with chaos theory when her father--a former policeman now working as a PI in Oslo--is killed by a hit-and-run driver. Clearing out his seedy office, Igi finds a butterfly pendant and the address of a young woman, whose body, including two bullets in her skull, turns up in a mound of plowed snow. In a burning suburban church, Igi discovers the body of another woman, long missing. Are the three deaths connected? Does it snow in Norway? Aided and/or hindered by a loving transvestite husband, a simpering mother now married to a rich lawyer and her father's former police partner, the dour but dauntless Igi uncovers a web of child abuse, Satanic worship, parental misconduct and psychological flummery that signal the influences of Ross Macdonald and Raymond Chandler, as well as Peter HYeg. Veteran Ingmar Bergman translator Joan Tate's English version makes Rygg's present-tense tale move briskly, giving a distinctive voice to the life and crimes of another country not our own. (Mar.)