Book Review: Disgrace

I read Mercy by Jussi Adler Olsen a while ago, and I’m a big fan of crime fiction, so when the publishers offered to send me a copy of Disgrace for review, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity for a free book.

I’m pretty much split 50/50 on this one, actually. In some ways the book was really good – the story was excellent – but in others, I felt like everything that annoyed me about Mercy was just re-emphasised in Disgrace.

More after the jump
First of all, the good bits. The story was great: pretty gripping and I wanted to keep reading, because I wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters. I also really liked the way Olsen managed to take an unsympathetic character – a cold serial killer – and turn her into someone I actually cared about throughout the book. There was a very human element about her which intrigued me and made me warm to the story in a way I otherwise wouldn’t have… 

…because the writing style would have put me off. Or not so much the writing style, as the characterisation of everyone apart from the killers. Assad and Rose, for instance, seemed at times like grotesque caricatures of the author’s prejudices. Now, I’m not a massively sensitive person, as anyone who knows me can attest to, but when Assad spends most of the book alternating between getting on a prayer mat and speaking laughable English whilst dropping heavy hints about the Iraqi police, and Rose spends literally about three weeks’ worth of the story on her hands and knees pathetically trying to assemble a table, it does make me wonder how much time the author has spent with people who aren’t white, middle-class businessmen. 

If you can get past that, though, it is actually quite a good book. There’s a scene with the killer towards the end which is particularly moving, and really brings to the forefront the kinds of conflicting emotions you must feel if you’re working with violent criminals. 

Worth a read, then, depending on how put off you’ll be by the stereotypical nature of 50% of the characters.

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