Cover image for Detective Inspector Huss
Detective Inspector Huss
Tursten, Helene, 1954-
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Krossade tanghästen. English
Publication Information:
New York : Soho Press, 2003.
Physical Description:
371 pages ; 20 cm
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One night Detective Inspector Irene Huss is called to the scene of an apparent suicide. The dead man landed on the sidewalk in front of his luxurious apartment. A wealthy financier, he was connected through an old-boys' network to the first families of Sweden. But the society suicide' turns out to have been a carefully plotted murder. As more murders ensue, Huss tangles with motorcycle gang members, skinheads, immigrants and neo-Nazis, a cross-section of Sweden's disaffected, until ultimately she discovers which of the suspects actually killed the Swedish millionaire. And why.'

Author Notes

Helene Tursten was a nurse and a dentist before she turned to writing. Other books in the Irene Huss series include Night Rounds , The Torso , and The Glass Devil . She was born in Goteborg, Sweden, where she now lives with her husband and daughter.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Goteborg, Sweden, is the setting for this first in a promising series starring Irene Huss, detective inspector in a police force not yet comfortable with women officers. When the apparent suicide of a businessman turns out to be murder, Huss and her colleagues follow a tangled trail that takes them from the haunts of the ostentatiously wealthy to the underworld of drug-dealing biker gangs. The mystery itself is mostly routine, but the overview of Swedish society, its liberal foundation cracked by racism, drugs, and a new wave of vicious crime, forms a compelling backdrop for the story, drawing on the same tensions that fuel Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander series. Wallander is considerably more world weary than Huss, but the younger feminist investigator brings her own set of complexities to the table, as she feels her own family endangered by the same forces that threaten society. Translator Murray's feel for nuance, notable in his renderings of several Mankell novels, is equally evident here. Another winner in what is becoming a golden age of European procedurals. --Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

This intriguing police procedural from Swedish author Tursten, the first in a new series, augurs well for the future exploits of its heroine, a sympathetic 40-something detective attempting to juggle a demanding job and her family life. Irene Huss of the Violent Crimes Unit plunges into a complex and high-stakes investigation when Richard von Knecht, one of Gteborg's leading citizens and a Trump-like tycoon, apparently takes a suicidal plunge off his apartment balcony, practically before the eyes of his wife and son. Evidence that von Knecht was murdered soon surfaces, and a sensitive inquiry into the life and background of the victim begins. After someone bombs Von Knecht's offices, claiming two lives, Huss and her colleagues find themselves delving into Sweden's seamy underworld of drug dealers and motorcycle gangs. Remarkably, there's little about the mystery, the characters' personalities and motivations or the police approach to solving the crimes that couldn't easily be transposed to a contemporary American setting. Huss herself is an entirely plausible creation-smart, competent, but fallible-and the exchanges between the various police officers with whom she works help define them as three-dimensional as well. Through solid, patient police work, the good guys catch the murderer, whose identity, while not a total surprise, provides a nice narrative twist. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



The patrol car was the first to arrive on the scene. The ambulance came a scant five minutes later. As far as the ambulance medics could tell, there wasn't much for them to do. The two police officers attempted to hold back the sensation-hungry spectators who suddenly were stoic enough to defy both wind and rain. One of the officers got into the car and called for backup. "Send the crime scene team to the corner of Aschebergsgatan and Molinsgatan. A guy jumped from the fifth floor. Looks like it's that bigtime businessman, Knäck-something-or-other. His wife and son are here, in shock. We need another ambulance for them. Oh, I see ... von Knecht." Detective Superintendent Sven Andersson had just reached his old Volvo 240 and was putting his key in the lock when he heard a familiar female voice shouting, "Sven, wait! Case in progress!" Annoyed, he turned to her and sighed. "What is it now?" The detective inspector's voice revealed a slight hint of titillation when she said, "Richard von Knecht jumped off his balcony!" "Richard von Knecht! The Richard von Knecht?" "Yes. It sounds unbelievable. Was there a stock market crash or something?" "Hop in the car. Did you get an address?" THE RAIN was pouring down, and the superintendent had to put his windshield wipers on high to be able to see out. Göteborg was really living up to its nickname of "Soaking-borg." The week before there had been total winter chaos with half a meter of snow; the whole city had been paralyzed for several days. The result would undoubtedly be a high birth rate the next August. Now it was a few degrees above freezing with not a snowflake to be seen. Detective Inspector Irene Huss phoned her teenage daughters and told them that she'd be late. They were used to it by now, after her many years with the Crime Police. They promised to take the dog for a walk and feed him, and to let their father know. Krister was no doubt used to it, too. As was usual, he would make a good dinner for his daughters. Everything had been organized to run smoothly in the family, even without her help. She must have sighed audibly, because Superintendent Andersson turned to her and asked, "Is something bothering you?" "No, nothing. It's depressing weather. Depressing, with scattered suicides. Depressing. Depressing!" The superintendent nodded in agreement and stared gloomily at the black rain being flung against the windshield by the gusty wind. He broke the silence and asked, "How could Dispatch be so sure that it was really Richard von Knecht who jumped?" "According to the officer on duty, the wife and son were down on the street. Apparently, it was the son who called the police." "Do you know what floor he fell from?" "No, but it seems it was high enough." They sat in silence for a few minutes. At last the superintendent cleared his throat and asked, "Do you know anything about Richard von Knecht?" "What most people know. Aristocratic family, and wealthy. Talented businessman, stock market speculator, and one of Göteborg's biggest celebrities. According to Aftonbladet's financial section he's a business genius, but my husband says he's just had incredible luck." "Is Krister an expert on business and the stock market now, too?" "No. Although he does own twenty shares of Trygg Hansa, which he received as a bonus when they reorganized a few years back. He's still the chef at Glady's Corner." "That's supposed to be a great place. Very trendy, I hear." "You bet." Through the slapping of the windshield wipers they could now see the flashing blue lights of the emergency vehicles. The crime team was there and had blocked off a large area. The site of the body's impact was illuminated by a soft light streaming from the glass in the front entrance of an exclusive menswear store. The door was set into the corner of the building's granite foundation. Superintendent Andersson had a vague memory that there had been a pharmacy on this spot when he was a boy. But he wasn't quite sure, since he had grown up in Masthugget, the neighborhood that was torn down during "urban renewal" in the sixties. Above the door the corner extended into an oriel. There was an oriel on the corner of each floor, whose bay windows faced in three directions, except for the top floor, which sported a balcony crowned by a turreted roof. It was from there that Richard von Knecht had plunged to the street. Superintendent Andersson let his glance pass over the remains, but he quickly looked away. Inspector Huss also shuddered when she saw what von Knecht looked like. It was not a pretty way to die, she thought. One of the crime scene team came over to them. "The medical examiner will be here any minute." "Do you know which one is coming?" asked the superintendent. A shrug was the reply. With Inspector Huss in his wake, Superintendent Andersson walked over to the parked patrol car. He bent down to the officer in the driver's seat. "Hi, Superintendent Sven Andersson from Homicide." "Hans Stefansson from PO-One. So they've already called in you guys ?" "Yes, it's unusually quick. We were contacted barely fifteen minutes afterward, which would mean that he jumped at five forty-five P.M. Is that right?" "No, we were the first on the scene, at five thirty-five on the dot. He must have floated on down max five minutes earlier. My partner and I were on Korsvägen when the call came in. I would think the correct time of impact would be five-thirty." Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Medical Examiner Yvonne Stridner. She was a professor of forensic medicine and undeniably one of the country's most talented pathologists. But Superintendent Andersson had a hard time working with her because Professor Stridner was a woman who demonstrated her expertise gladly and saw no reason to hide her light under a bushel. Inspector Huss herself had been involved in several cases in which the hypotheses of the police were turned completely upside down by Yvonne Stridner's definite forensic opinions. And so far she had always been right. But that wasn't it as much as the fact that she was authoritarian and pedantic that made it difficult for Superintendent Andersson to accept her. Huss had a strong hunch that, deep down, the superintendent did not regard forensic medicine as a proper job for a woman. The white Ford Escort with MEDICAL EXAMINER painted on both front doors had been parked at the outer perimeter of the blocked-off area. Out sailed the professor of forensic medicine. Even those who had no idea of her profession stood aside in deference to her commanding presence. Her flaming red hair was exquisitely set off by her soft mustard-colored woolen coat. She strode up to the body, took off her coat, and asked an officer to hold it. Underneath she was wearing a clean white lab coat. She opened the little bag she was carrying, pulled on a pair of latex gloves, and squatted down next to von Knecht's remains. The crime scene technicians had just rigged up a floodlight, giving her a better view. She hadn't cast a single glance around her. Professor Stridner was wearing a pair of plastic protectors over her expensive leather shoes. There was a good deal of blood around the body, mixed with a lot of other material and diluted with rainwater. Slushy. In order to feel that she was being of some use, Inspector Huss decided to start questioning the police officers present. The commander of the unit, Håkan Lund, she knew well. Fifteen years earlier they had both been rookies in what was then the third precinct, today Polisområde 1, Göteborg's downtown area. Lund wasn't much taller than she was-five-nine at most. But his waistline would soon be approaching his height if he didn't watch out. The crime team had received their instructions. Håtkan Lund turned to Irene Huss and said easily, "At your service, Huss! Is Violent Crimes already on site?" "Hi, how are you doing? Yes, we were called in early this time. When did you get here?" "We got the call from Dispatch just after five-thirty. We were inside the station but left right away. `Top priority! Richard von Knecht is lying dead at the corner of Molinsgatan and Aschebergsgatan!'" "How did it look here?" "Chaos! The vultures had gathered. We almost couldn't get through the crowd. But we pushed and shoved and got them driven back and set up barriers. We cordoned off a large area, as you can see. A few people did try to get under the crime scene tape, but I yelled right in their faces. Literally!" Inspector Huss could imagine the scene vividly. Quickly she went on to ask, "Who identified Richard von Knecht?" "His wife and son. When we got through the crowd a woman covered in blood was standing here wailing. Some guy was trying to prop her up. That was Fru von Knecht and her son. From what I understood, they happened to be right here on the street when he fell," said Lund sympathetically. "Where are they now?" "The ambulance took them off to Sahlgren Hospital. But you won't be able to talk to her for a couple of days, and the son was chalk white in the face. He even threw up before they got into the ambulance." Lund looked serious, but suddenly brightened up and exclaimed, "Hey, I know someone you'll be interested in meeting. Come on!" Irene followed him over toward the crime team's van. With a histrionic gesture he opened up one of the side doors and said, "This is Fru Eva Karlsson. Fru Karlsson, this is Detective Inspector Irene Huss." He turned to the little old woman in the light-gray trench coat, who nodded mutely in greeting. On her knees sat a brown dachshund. It clearly did not suffer from muteness. Over the dog's frantic yapping Irene could hear Lund saying, "This is the closest witness we have. She was standing about seven meters from the point of impact." Irene turned to the woman. A trembling, thin white hand was held out toward her. Cautiously, she took the fragile, ice-cold hand in hers. In a soothing tone of voice she began, "Fru Karlsson, I'd like to hear a little about the tragic event you were witness to this evening-" "Frightful! I'm almost seventy-seven years old, and this is the most appalling thing that has ever happened to me in my whole life! To watch a human being smashed right at my feet! He almost fell right on top of Snoopy!" A thin white finger pointed accusingly at the remains of Richard von Knecht. Irene gave up at once. It would be best to drive the old lady home and try to interview her later. Over by the body, Stridner had begun packing up her things. With a practiced motion the professor tore off the rubber gloves, took off her lab coat, and stuffed all of it into her bag. She had already removed the plastic protectors from her feet. Without looking at him, Stridner made a queenly gesture with her arm to the young police sergeant, who had been patiently holding her coat for more than a quarter of an hour. She seemed only now to notice all the people standing around her. She called out, "Is there anyone from Violent Crimes here?" Superintendent Andersson slumped, sighed, and shambled over to her. "All right, Andersson. Come and look. Don't step in the blood," said the pathologist. Inspector Huss stole after her superintendent. Stridner had taken a pen from the outside pocket of her bag. She pulled briskly on one end and produced a meter-long lecture pointer. It was perfectly in character for Yvonne Stridner to go around with a pointer in her bag. She said urgently, "Look there at the top of the right hand. I've turned his hand forward so that the light falls on it. Look!" She gestured with her slender pointer. The two detectives looked. Running across the entire back of the hand was a deep groove. It wasn't as incised as a knife wound, but it had clearly been caused by something relatively sharp. Andersson ventured to ask, "Couldn't he have gotten that from the fall?" "No. Too distinct. The wound was inflicted by an instrument or weapon. Since I happen to know ... knew ... von Knecht, this death affects me personally. I'm actually supposed to be teaching graduate students all morning tomorrow, but I'll see to the autopsy myself. I'll start by eight at the latest and will let you know after eleven." "Isn't there a chance you could take a look at him tonight?" Superintendent Andersson gazed at the professor without much hope. She fluffed her red tresses with her fingertips. Her hairdo had been thoroughly soaked while she was doing her preliminary investigation. "Not necessary, Andersson," she replied curtly. "It's almost certain that this is a homicide." Irene Huss stared incredulously at the pathologist. Rage began to rise inside her: being condescended to stimulates the release of adrenaline in most people. She interrupted the conversation acerbically. "Wait just a minute! What are you basing this on? And how did you know von Knecht?" The pathologist gave her a surprised look, as if only now noticing that another person was present. Sven Andersson muttered Irene Huss's name and title in explanation. Before Professor Stridner managed to reply, some ambulance men came over and asked whether it was all right to take the body to Pathology. The ME nodded. She gestured toward the main entry. "We'll wait over there so we won't be in the way. And we can get out of the rain." In a troop they walked over to the building entrance, a solid door with beautiful incised glass in the top half. There was no list of names of the people who lived in the building, only a coded intercom system. You had to know the proper code to get hold of any of the residents. Yvonne Stridner came straight to the point. "We weren't close friends, von Knecht and I. He did some sailing with my husband. My ex-husband, to be more precise. My present husband doesn't know the von Knecht family at all." So the frosty medical examiner was married, and for a second time. Irene's ire was replaced by astonishment. Oblivious to the inspector's surprise, the professor continued. "It must be fifteen years since I last saw them. But I'm convinced that Richard never ever would jump from a balcony twenty-five meters up! Even if he wanted to commit suicide. He was terrified of heights, you see. When he was out sailing, if a sheet or shroud starting getting tangled on the mast, he never wanted to climb up and fix it." "How did your ex-husband know Richard von Knecht?" Again it was Irene Huss who asked. Yvonne Stridner gave her a sharp look but nodded in comprehension of the reason the question had been asked. "They belonged to the same crowd during their high school days. They stuck together through thick and thin over the years. Over time, various girlfriends and wives joined the group. Continues... Excerpted from Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten Copyright © 1998 by Helene Tursten Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.