#Bookreview ‘The Man Who Watched Women’ (A Sebastian Bergman Thriller) by Michael Hjorth and Hans Rosenfeldt. Sometimes expectations can be a killer

The Man Who Watched Women
The Man Who Watched Women

Title:   The Man Who Watched Women (A Sebastian Bergman Thriller) 
Author:   Michael HjorthHans Rosenfeldt 
Published:  June 18th 2015
Pages:  528
Genre:  Psychological thriller

Sometimes expectations can be a killer

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the ARC copy of The Man Who Watched Women.

Like most people in the planet (particularly readers) I’m well aware of the phenomenal boom Scandinavian thrillers have experienced in the last few years. I must confess I haven’t read that many of the novels (I have read some Wallander novels and a few others), but I’m a big fan of the TV series. I stumbled upon The Killing, then after watching the BBC version of Wallander I watched the Swedish version (well, there seem to be several), and then The Bridge blew me over, and I recommended it to everybody I met (near enough).

So when I read about this novel and the fact that one of the writers had written The Bridge, I had to get it.

And then, expectations can be a killer.

This is, evidently, the first in a series of novels with Sebastian Bergman, a psychologist expert in serial killers who has experienced a terrible personal loss, as the protagonist. The novel takes on the points of view of most of the characters, including the killers, all the members of the investigative team, and some minor characters (although it is written in the third person). And that was my first issue. I’m not sure if it’s a problem with the formatting of the draft copy I received, or it is intentional, but there is no way of distinguishing when there is a change of point of view. Sometimes within the same paragraph there will be two different characters (or rather, it will pass from one to another), creating confusion, especially at the beginning when you don’t know who anybody is or what is happening. So you need to be on your toes, and not only due to the nature of the story.

Then, the characters. The case itself is interesting, although I’m not sure it’s the most interesting novel with a serial killer (or more than one, but I don’t want to spoil the story) that I’ve read. But I did not find any of the characters likeable enough. Most of them were interesting, but I found it difficult to connect with them. Sebastian is a complicated man, with an awful tragedy in his past, but he is a dislikeable human being, and other than intelligence (and he’s not at his sharpest throughout the novel) there are no redeeming qualities I could find. I also thought there were inconsistencies, like his reaction to a woman who comes into his life during the book (and there were many women in his life, and that’s the central issue, although I found it difficult to see why…), his lack of insight, and his proclaimed love for somebody but total inability to reveal a crucial bit of information that would have made everything easier and possibly mark the difference between life and death for the said person. Egotistical, and as personality disordered as the criminals he studies, he lacks the charm that might make understandable the attraction others seem to feel towards him. Yes, he’s at a low moment, but there is no evidence that he’s ever been any different, apart from possibly with his family, and we only have his memories to rely on. The ending might have been intended as some sort of redemption for Sebastian, but I thought it was too little, too late.

The rest of the characters didn’t fare any better for me. Again some were interesting, but either we didn’t get to know enough about them, or they were presented in such a single-minded fashion that it was not easy to make a connection. I thought Billy and Torkel might have some potential, but there was not enough about them to know. I was not sure about the female character who invades Sebastian’s life. She appears disturbed, and considering he’s a psychologist he should notice, even in the circumstances, and the authors add a twist at the end regarding her character that felt a bit tagged on to ensure a second part. Ursula has potential but I wasn’t sure the snippets of information we were given hang together and the surprise at the end… Well, maybe she’ll be developed further. Vanja… other than being a good police woman, and easily irritated, there was nothing else. Hinde, the baddy, is a psychopath, intelligent, with his own traumas, but no particular appealing characteristics.

There were things in the plot that I wasn’t so sure about. The psychologist Sebastian is visiting at the beginning, who was a promising character, disappears suddenly, and he’s never even questioned, despite one of the victims being his patient. When they are trying to track several people throughout the book, they never try to find them through their mobiles, even when they get phone messages sent to them from the said individuals. Although they know about one of Hinde’s associates, and they know he’s somehow involved, he disappears and it’s not clear what efforts, if any, are being made to track him down. And they should have paid attention.

All in all, maybe somebody who comes to the book without my expectations will find it more satisfying. I suspect I was expecting far too much. It is an interesting book, for sure, but I won’t be coming back for the second part. (And if the commercial edition is better formatted and a paragraph given to each character, that would definitely help).

Realistic Characterization: 3/5
Made Me Think: 4/5
Overall enjoyment: 3/5
Readability: 2/5
Recommended: 3/5
Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Buy it at: 
Format & Pricing:
Hardback: $19.00 http://www.amazon.com/Man-Who-Watched-Women/dp/1780894554/
Kindle: $10.91 http://www.amazon.com/Man-Who-Watched-Women-ebook/dp/B00TQDWIHK/

Olga Núñez Miret




Author: olganm

I am a language teacher, writer, bookworm, and collaborator at Sants 3 Ràdio (a local radio station in Barcelona, where I returned in 2018), who lived in the UK for 25 years and worked for many years as a forensic psychiatrist there. I also have a Ph.D. in American Literature and an MSc in Criminology. I started publishing my stories, in English and Spanish, in 2012 and now have over twenty books available in a variety of genres, a blog (in English and Spanish), and translate books for other authors (English-Spanish and vice versa). In 2020 obtained the CELTA certificate as a language teacher, and offer Spanish and English classes. Writers and readers both in English and Spanish are my friends, colleagues, and allies, and after living in the UK for over twenty-five years, have returned home, to Barcelona, Spain, searching for inspiration for my stories. I also love owls and try to keep fit following fitness YouTube videos. Do feel free to connect with me. Here are: My website/blog: http://OlgaNM.wordpress.com

15 thoughts on “#Bookreview ‘The Man Who Watched Women’ (A Sebastian Bergman Thriller) by Michael Hjorth and Hans Rosenfeldt. Sometimes expectations can be a killer”

  1. Well done review Olga. Helpful as always. Point of view changes have to be carefully set up in the wording AND have something in the formatting to indicate the change — an extra break at least (though i don’t think that’s enough). A simple *** can do the trick.
    Wishing you a wonderful week. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Teagan. I agree. It was really puzzling to begin with, and later, guesswork at best. I hope they’ve sorted that out in the published version. Have a fantastic week.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. An honest and’brave’ review. It is interesting that in books as well as films, no matter how ‘interesting’ likeable or at the very least intriguing is necessary as well. I admire your persistence with an irritatingly constructed narrative. I think we relate to books as we do to people. It is easier to be frank about hyped books in a way I would be reluctant to do with struggling self published ones. That does smack of condescension but ultimately all reviews are subjective, and by admitting why we couldn’t ‘gel’ should get over the damage a negative review can bring in its train. Its a delicate balance and I think you have managed it well.


    1. Thanks so much for the comment. I think I kept reading because the story was interesting and because there are books that are uneven but eventually the whole is worth the effort. I guess I thought I was missing something, and perhaps I was. I wondered if perhaps in screenwriting you rely on the interpretation of the actors, but in a novel you have to give enough to the reader for them to get a sense of the characters. I am also less likely to write a negative review of a self-published book, but you’re right about the subjectivity of reviews, so I try and be detailed, because it’s likely that somebody might be interested in aspects of a book that I didn’t find appealing. I also hope that the published version (I got an early copy through Net Galley) will have sorted some of the jumping POV. I noticed a review that mentioned that although this is the first book, there is a short story about the main character and his past history.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A great, thoughtful review, Olga. I have always had problems with a jumping POV – sometimes it works (Gone Girl) and sometimes not. But with so many, especially not attributed, I probably wouldn’t read this (as much as I have liked Wallender and the Girl With.. series).


    1. I hope they sorted it out, Noelle, because I got an early copy, but the POV changed within the same paragraph and I couldn’t see why they’d decided to do that. I imagine on screen this could work much better because the actors would give the characters more personality, but…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved Wallender, which we got on our PBS channel here in Florida. What a great review, Olga. The switching of characters is difficult. Thanks for your honesty. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I watched the British version of Wallander first and although I loved it, I must say one of the Swedish one I thought was fantastic (there are two different actors playing Wallander and I much prefer one to the other. Thanks Colleen!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “This is, evidently, the first in a series of novels with Sebastian Bergman…”

    No. It’s the second in the series.

    It’s no wonder you sometimes got confused. It’s not the book’s fault.

    I dislike being critical of other people’s work, but this is a woefully poor review.


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