More Bitter Than Death begins as a collection of sub plots that are loosely tied together: a single mother murdered brutally in her apartment while her daughter silently witnesses the entire scene; a chronological journal of one boys psychological profile; and, the main protagonist, Siri Bergman dealing with her evolving relationship with family and friends. The story is a typical procedural that I swear was done by Law and Order: SVU a few years ago. Even saying all that, I still think this story is worth reading as there are more aspects of the book that are compelling and original to keep someone interested. What makes More Bitter Than Death so absorbing is that it does not focus so much on the case to solve the murder, but the people who are affected most by that person’s death: the victim’s friends and associates, the killer, and the people who have to investigate the death. If you are looking for a book that is filled with intense, fast-paced thrills, then this novel is definitely not the book for you. This book is a slow and methodically paced psychological thriller that does not become interesting until you are about half way through, and then suddenly grabs and holds your attention tightly until the last page.
Träff, a practicing psychologist, adds an air of authenticity to the story by interspersing clinical notes that detail the perpetrators history from about 18 months to present day in the story. At first I was a little annoyed with the interjections, but as the story progresses you start to understand why the case notes are so important. By the end of the book, you are left wondering if the dead person is the only victim in the entire scenario.
Siri is fascinating to say the least. At times, she comes off as incredibly naive for someone of her age and professional level. At other times, Siri is compassionate and wise. But, for the most part, Siri just comes off as emotionally removed from her friends, colleagues, lover, and patients. Siri is still grieving over her husband’s death (his death takes place several months before book one starts), working overtime and drinking heavily seem to be her coping mechanisms. Her interactions with everyone from her best friends to her new patients seem “off”. As if she is encapsulated in a fog that shields her from saying or doing anything meaningful. A time or two I actually had to put the book down because of frustration as I questioned Siri’s intelligence and level of common sense. This is most painfully obvious when she is having a conversation with a colleague in the beginning of the story. Siri is aware of her distance, but hardly does anything to alleviate the situation out of fear of her past. What I enjoy the most out of this series is that the authors are not making it easy on Siri; this is a realistic progression of a character working through the grieving process of losing a loved one. It is a not a pretty process at all as I found Siri to be selfish and downright rude at times, but it one of the more accurate portrayals of grief and depression that I have read in a while.
I highly recommend More Bitter Than Death and cannot wait until the third book is translated into English. While this is the second book in the series, it is not necessary for you to read the first book (you really should though) in order to understand this story.
Note: This has vivid descriptions of violent acts as it deals with domestic violence. If you are a survivor of domestic violence, or just do not like violence of any kind, then parts of this story will be tough to read.
It’s a rainy evening in a Stockholm suburb and five-year-old Tilda is hiding under the kitchen table playing with her crayons when a man enters and beats her mother to death in cold blood. The only witness, Tilda can’t quite see the murderer or figure out who he is. But she’s still a witness.
Across town, Siri Bergman and her best friend, Aina, are assisting their old friend Vijay with a research project on domestic abuse. They host a weekly self-help group for survivors, and over the course of several dark, rainy evenings, these women share their stories of impossible love, violence, and humiliation. When the boyfriend of one of the women turns out to be a prime suspect in a high-profile murder case, it isn’t long before Siri finds herself embroiled in the investigation. But as she draws closer to finding the murderer, unexpected developments in her own life force her to wonder: Can she learn to trust a man again in spite of being surrounded by women who have been so deeply betrayed by love?