Sunday, 18 February 2018
Betrayal by Karin Alvtegen
Karin Alvetegen is one of the reigning queens of Scandi noir. Her style of writing is distinct - she is brilliant at creating psychological thrillers. There are no Gothic undertones or creepy landscapes, no anguished detectives in knitted jumpers to distract from the plot.
Her books are a great study of the human mind, and how it affects the everyday behaviour patterns and life in general.
There are two main protagonists in Betrayal.
Eva is a betrayed wife, who's tormented by her husband's infidelity and indifference his perfidy brings to their life and young child. Shakespeare's quote "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned..." was written about her.
Her pain of betrayal is palpable, it is like a physical attack. Someone you live with for so many years and think know, betrays you with a person who is in a position of trust. The whole world collapses.
You start looking back for hints, when it all might have started. You want revenge. Big time.
Some of the scenes in the book, describing the relationship between Eva and her husband Henrik, are painful to read, as many a couple who've being together for a long time might find them recognisable. When they have conversation about the future, Henrik accuses his wife that they didn't have fun anymore.
"...he sat out there... and watched the traffic report and put their shared future into question because he wasn't having fun anymore. As if she were going around cheering with joy about their life. But at least she tried, they did have a child together, God damn it!"
"...he had lied to her as if their relationship had never existed, she and their life together had never existed, had never been worth a thing."
Jonas comes into the narrative as a dedicated carer, who spends days in the hospital, looking after his girlfriend. We don't know yet what happened to Anna, and how she ended up in coma. Jonas clearly has OCD. His obsessions and behaviors go back to his miserable childhood, with a Lothario of a father, who sleeps around without a second thought for his wife, and who forces Jonas into being an unwilling co-conspirator.
When Jonas' mother finds out about the affairs, she shuts herself in the room and withdraws from life altogether. She cannot forgive either her husband or son. She didn't understand that her son was as much a victim of the situation as her.
Jonas' mental problems stem from those sad times.
By a fluke of nature, Eva and Jonas meet one evening, and get entangled into a tragic mess.
It is a chilling novel, a gripping read. This is the second Alvtegen's novel that I've read, and oh God, it is bleak, unnerving, nail-biting, dark and creepy.
As the novel was unfolding, I was torn into two, compelled into keeping reading but also not wanting to know how it ends, because you know it's going to be one hell of an ending. And so it was, shocking and merciless.
If you enjoyed reading this review, you might like a review of another Altegen's book - Shadow.
Do you enjoy Scandi Noir? Which psychological thriller would you recommend to read?