Tag Archives: The Bridge

#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 
ASIN:  B00TQDWIHK
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).

Ratings:
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

@OlgaNM7

http://OlgaNM.wordpress.com

http://www.OlgaNM.com

The Imitation Game. Is normal always best?

Hi all:

While we wait to see if any queries will come to the desk of the psychiatrist regarding characters or plot twists (we don’t really use divans), I thought I’d write about something else that I’ve been pondering about for a while.

The Imitation Game. Poster. imdb.com
The Imitation Game. Poster. imdb.com

I went to watch The Imitation Game (that I really enjoyed. I’m not sure how accurate this biopic is to the life of Alan Turing, but the story is fascinating and Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance is extraordinary) and it got me thinking about how many characters in TV series (Sherlock himself, or the female Swedish detective in The Bridge, Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory), films and books are…different. One of the readers who left a comment in my post also observed the same. He noted that characters like Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment are by no means  your normal Joe, but it would difficult to make them fit into a standard psychiatric diagnostic category. Many of the psychopaths (that by the way, is not a psychiatric diagnostic category, although used to be a legal one in the UK before changes to the Mental Health Act) that grace our books and screens are also (hopefully) not quite the picture we have of our friendly neighbour. One possible explanation —apart from the fact that we’re always interested in people and places that are far from our usual environment— would be that some of them are shown as engaging in extremes of behaviour and going to the dark side, that maybe we have theoretically thought about, but would not cross over to.

But I think with some of those characters, there might be something else at work. Of course, Alan Turing is not a character in a book (well, it is, but based on a real person), but if we are to go by his depiction in the film, he appears to have likely suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome (part of the Autism Spectrum Disorders), very high functioning. He is very single minded and obsesses over his work, with no evidence of any other interests, has very few social graces, and although we do not know much about his childhood, from his conversations with the only friend he is shown to have when he was a teenager, Christopher, he’d always been “different”, as he quotes his mother remarking on it at times.

There is a fairly illustrative scene, when he is talking to his friend, and Christopher gives him a book on cryptography and code breaking. When young Alan asks what that is and Christopher explains, Alan asks how is that different from normal human interaction because (and I’m paraphrasing here): “People never say what they mean and one has to try and decipher what code they are using and what they are really trying to say.” Can you even imagine what it must be like to try and navigate a social situation without being able to read people’s expressions, and taking literally everything you’re told? If you’ve ever experienced extreme cultural shock on finding yourself in an environment that was completely alien, imagine that multiplied by…many. Maybe, just maybe, these characters put into context, or highlight, how our social interactions work, and how we take for granted and natural, codes of behaviour and speech that are nothing but. They might help us reflect on the true nature of our prejudices and the moral compass of a place, a time, and a society. Perhaps they might make us realise that we are the truly weird ones.

The facts of Alan Turing’s life, his tragic death and his terrible treatment at the hands of the justice system of the time (being a homosexual in the post-war era wasn’t easy) only highlight that the “normal” society, the one that’s supposed to be flexible and easily adapt, makes no such efforts most of the time.

If we can sometimes look around and appreciate something different after reading a science fiction book in which pages we recognise a distorted image of our world, we might do the same by offering a different perspective on our social world through some of our characters. Just saying.

By the way, I leave you a link to the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists’ page on Autistic Spectrum Disorder information page:

http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/parentsandyouthinfo/parentscarers/autismandaspergerssyndrome.aspx

From that page, a summary of some of the behavioural manifestations of the disorder:

Overall, the problems and behaviours can be divided into three main areas:

Difficulties with communication

Children and young people with ASD have difficulties with both verbal communication (speaking) and non-verbal communication (eye contact, expressions and gestures). Some children may not be able to talk at all or have very limited speech.

Some have good speech and language skills, but still have difficulty using their speech socially or to sustain a conversation. Their use of language may be overly formal or ‘adult-like’. They may talk at length about their own topics of interest, but find it hard to understand the back and forth nature of two-way conversations.

Difficulties with social interaction

Children and young people with ASD have difficulty understanding the ‘social world’, for example, they often have difficulty recognising and understanding their feelings and those of people around them. This in turn can make it difficult for them to make friends. They may prefer to spend time alone, or appear insensitive to others because of their difficulties understanding social rules and expectations.

Difficulties with behaviour, interests and activities

Children and young people with ASD often prefer familiar routines (e.g. taking the same route to school every day, putting their clothes on in a particular order), and tend to have difficulties dealing with change, which they find difficult and distressing.

They may also have unusual intense and specific interests, such as in electronic gadgets or lists of dates. They might use toys more like ‘objects’ to line up, for example. They may have unusual responses to particular experiences from their environment such as tastes, smells, sounds and textures. For example, they could be very sensitive to the sound of a hair dryer, or the feel of certain materials against their skin.

Some children show unusual repetitive movements such as hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complicated whole body movements.

If you are in the UK, this is the link to the National Autistic Society:

National Autistic Society (UK)

http://www.autism.org.uk/

And in case you want to check The Imitation Game in Rotten Tomatoes (it seems it opens in the US on Christmas Day):

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_imitation_game/?search=The%20Imitation

Thank you so much for reading if you’ve found it interesting, please like, share and comment. And if you want to CLICK, that’s fine too.