Cover image of "Where Monsters Dwell," a novel about a Scandinavian serial killer

There’s something strange about Norwegian detective Odd Singsaker. It’s not his name, which is common enough in Norway, but the aftermath of the neurosurgery that removed a golf-ball-sized tumor from his brain a year ago. When he returns to work for the first day after his convalescence, he finds it difficult to remember some of his fellow officers. He think he’s successfully covering up the problem, but his boss insists on far too frequent reports about the progress he’s making on the horrific murder case he catches that very first day. It’s a case about that rarest of beings, a Scandinavian serial killer.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Perhaps it’s lucky, then, that in some mysterious way his case is linked to another murder far away in Richmond, Virginia. Lucky, because that distant case brings to Norway an attractive young American detective named Felicia Stone with her own considerable skills — and a good memory.

A serial killer in Norway?

Check out “serial killers in Norway,” and Wikipedia will turn up this information: “Arnfinn Nesset: manager of a geriatric nursing home who poisoned 22 dwellers at the Orkdal Aldersog Sjukeheim institution over a period of years before being convicted in 1983.” In other words, writing a novel about a Norwegian serial killer is, not to put too fine an edge on it, a stretch. Of course, Jørgen Brekke’s fellow Norwegian crime writer, Jø Nesbo, has managed to pull it off on several occasions. Brekke’s effort is less successful. However, Where Monsters Dwell was reportedly a “runaway bestseller” in Norway and translated into at least 13 languages, so it would appear that other readers found more to like in the book. My problem was not just the implausibility of a story about not one but two (yes, two) serial killers in Norway but the numerous coincidences on which the plot hangs.

Where Monsters Dwell (Odd Singsaker #1) by Jørgen Brekke ★★★☆☆

Too many coincidences

The plot in many, if not most, murder mysteries relies on coincidences. Just think of all those English detective stories in which almost every character appears to be a suspect until the climactic moment when the investigator announces to a room full of them which was the culprit. I find stories like this infantile and supremely boring. Where Monsters Dwell is NOT in that category. In many ways, it’s a fascinating book, well researched and well written. The principal characters are interesting and well-developed. And the historical references are enlightening. However, the story revolves around far too many coincidences.

In Where Monsters Dwell, the scene shifts frequently from Trondheim, Norway, to Richmond, Virginia, in 2010, with interludes set in Trondheim and Venice, Italy, in the early 1500s. If you read the book, you won’t be surprised to learn that all three settings are integrally linked.

About the author

Norwegian author Jørgen Brekke has written four crime novels to date, of which Where Monsters Dwell was the first. Two of the others also feature the detective duo of Odd Singsaker and Felicia Stone.

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