Fatal Isles by Maria Adolfsson – Book Reviev

Fatal Isles by Maria Adolfsson – Book Cover

Oops, another Scandinavian crime novel, and to top it off, written by a blonde chick. What does this most likely mean? Well, that Fatal Isles is a psycho-thriller? More precisely? Whining and whimpering? Well, no, you’re mistaken (at least in this case). Once you successfully get through the opening pages, which dissect the aftermath of an alcohol-fueled night, going into excessive detail, Maria Adolfsson’s novel turns into a pro crime story.

The initial setup, with Karen Hornby, a criminal inspector, sleeping with her jerk boss, is entirely self-serving and could easily be dispensed with; and once the investigation kicks into gear, it won’t hold much significance. Though things get complicated, at least for Karen, as the victim turns out to be the prick boss’s wife. The boss is sidelined, and Karen takes over the investigation.

The setting, the Doggerland archipelago, where British and Scandinavian cultures mingle, seems highly fictional. If geography isn’t your forte, and you were planning to vacation here next year, you might be disappointed. (Your feet might dangle in the water, or those darn wind turbines might drive you nuts…) Your suspicion, however, is cleverly assuaged by the islands’ professional environmental and sociological depiction, which seamlessly integrates into Fatal Isles’ text.

It seems like a good place overall, maybe just finding the machismo in the police force a bit exaggerated. But as a one-time reader, it still affects you because you’d most likely prefer to smack the meddling colleagues with a larger-than-average shovel instead of the patient Karen.

Karen already has a low opinion of herself, and she somewhat harps on the fact that the investigation is progressing slowly. If you were her boss, you’d let her do her job; it’s evident she knows what she’s doing. She conducts her work professionally and conscientiously, and her investigation doesn’t turn into some sort of obsession, like, say, Bosch’s investigations (see Michael Connelly’s The Concrete Blonde).

Karen’s personal life isn’t intrusive either; even if some scenes end up slightly longer than necessary. And because of her past tragedy, which is slowly revealed to keep your curiosity piqued, you’re generally forgiving towards her.

The investigation runs on two tracks, but reading the flashbacks, you can still guess where the resolution might lie. Yet, thanks to the cunning dosing of information, you still manage to get a bit uncertain at times. And in the end, just when you think you know everything, you get quite surprised. Or, well, maybe not you. I, for one, was surprised.

And then, you might even get moved because, it seems, a blonde lady just can’t entirely shed her skin, and by the end of The Fatal Isles, she must include an almost unnecessary, yet emotional closure. But in the case of a fundamentally good crime novel, this can be forgiven. And its effect will surely be nullified in the next installment of Adolfsson’s Doggerland series.


Fatal Isles (Doggerland #1) by Maria Adolfsson
514 pages, Paperback
Published 2021 by Zaffre

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