“A bit of a trial” – Black River by Will Dean

Welcome to the third Tuva Moodysson adventure, folks – the heroine, you’ll remember of Dark Pines and Red Snow. We went (we felt) somewhat easy on those first two books. Obviously we don’t read a huge amount of crime (we know that there are people who read only crime, crime and nothing else, and that Will Dean’s stock seems to be high with those people) – we’ve read a lot of Elmore Leonard, a lot of James Ellroy, and a lot of CJ Box which seems to run the gamut from high end literature to pulpier genre stock (and there’s nothing wrong at either end as far as we are concerned). The conclusion we’ve reached having read three Will Dean books now, though, is that he is defiantly not for us.

For those of us who have made the journey so far, you’ll remember that Tuva quit town at the end of the last book for a job in the big city, far away from Gavrik, the small Swedish town where she previously worked as a small town reporter on the local rag. She’s summoned back by the disappearance of her friend Tammy, owner of the local Thai food van (one of only two or three take out emporiums in the town). It’s Midsommar and the town is filling up with tourists and nobody wants missing person posters stapled across the main street, but Tuva is nothing but dogged. And then a second woman disappears, a slightly better off, slightly better connected woman who may be about to star in a reality TV show and the tension ratchets up a bit.

Now, the biggest problem with this book is there is no real investigation. Tuva visits various suspicious people – a pair of cousins building a freighter business in the woods (ooooh, but what do they keep in their containers???), a pair of surly lumberjacks (oooooh, but they’ve apparently got a bad reputation), a woman who is into taxidermy and has lots of containers filled with acid in which various bones are being bleached (oooooh, do you think she might have a human body in one of those containers???), a baby faced shoe salesman who once went out with Tammy and has a thing about feet (oooooh, that’s weird, do you think it’s him???) – and that’s not to mention Viggo, the weird taxi driver from the previous book who seems to have a thing about Tuva.

Tuva visits each of these people, tries to see into rooms, occasionally gets into rooms, and then either (i) you get the literary equivalent of a corny jump scare edit in a terrible horror film (Tuva is locked in a container at the end of a chapter… turns out it was a joke at the start of the next chapter; Tuva spots a body in a field… only for that body to be a scarecrow at the start of the next chapter – Dean does this again and again and again and again) or (ii) nothing. She drives away again. Visits someone else. Go back to the start of this para and start again. It’s either jump scare or nothing. There’s a pick up truck dripping blood… but it’s just a hunter’s truck with some roadkill in it. On and on and on. Nothing Tuva does leads to anything. She blunders and bumps her way around until eventually someone pushes her into a hole and we find out who did it.

Tuva’s method (or Dean’s method if you want to be that way about it) is put herself about until she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s the ‘put enough monkeys in a room and one day one of them will write Shakespeare’ method. Isn’t the foundation of a good crime novel intrepid hero investigates, finds clues, narrows options, dismisses red herrings, finds killer (after winding up in terrible peril)? Tuva is not an intrepid heroine. In all truth, she’s a bit of a moaner. All told, we found Black River a bit of a trial. It was dull. Awash in red herrings and cheap jump scares. And, as we said, defiantly not for us.

Any Cop?: We’ve itched our Will Dean scratch and we won’t be reading anything else involving Tuva Moodysson.

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