More Bitter Than Death by Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff

more bitter than death

More Bitter Than Death by Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff, translated by Paul Norlen
Simon & Schuster, June 2013
Originally published as Bittrare än döden, 2010
Siri Bergman book 2

FTC Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss.

Siri Bergman is a psychologist who runs a self-help group for victims of violence along with her colleague Aina. The murder at the center of the book is of Susanne, a woman savagely killed in front of her five year old daughter. The book, unfortunately, opens with the violent murder as prologue, but the story doesn’t return to them for a considerable amount of time.

This is sort of an odd crime book because I don’t think Siri is really investigating the murder of Susanne during most of the book. She is busy dealing with her messy personal life and dealing with her work life, specifically the new self-help group she is leading. While Siri’s boyfriend is a police officer, he doesn’t involve her in the investigation to a great extent, which is probably as it should be, conflict-of-interest wise.

I’m trying to figure out why this book was such a fast read for me though I was ultimately unsatisfied with it. I think it’s because the book spends so much time in therapy and self-help sessions with the patients, and that’s fascinating (Träff is a psychologist herself). The last section of the book, however, was more investigatory, which moved more quickly for me. Grebe and Träff are also good at fleshing out their characters except the antagonist, who is still somewhat of a mystery even by the end of the story.

13 thoughts on “More Bitter Than Death by Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff

  1. Rebecca – I’m really interested to know your views on this one. I read the first Siri Bergman novel and was wondering what the follow-up would be like. I agree with you that the authors do a terrific job of drawing a lot of the characters and of giving readers a look at what the life of a psychologist is really like. I found that aspect of Some Kind of Peace interesting and I was wondering whether we’d see that again in this novel. Thanks for your thoughtful review.

    • Margot- I liked having a bird’s-eye-view of therapy, but I missed following an investigation more closely with the police. It’s not that I disliked the book, but I’m looking for a different sort of crime novel, I think.

  2. Sounds like this was an infuriating read. Thanks for reviewing this one. Also, I am more particular about about the protagonist pov in the books I choose to read because I want all the information of the investigation. This is why I love police procedurals. I tend to avoid most books that have reporters/journalists as leads in the story because you only get a limited view. This one being a psychologist would have def. made me feel distant from the action.

    • Keishon- I wasn’t infuriated because the sections devoted to Siri’s work were well-written, but from time to time I got impatient and wanted to get back to the investigation. I followed this book up with a couple I really, really liked (Anne Holt and Antonio Hill), so my dismay didn’t last long.

  3. It’s a balancing act that doesn’t always work when the main protagonist isn’t directly involved in the investigation. I think I’m with Keishon in that I prefer the lead to be a police person or a lawyer. Otherwise I always get bogged down with the idea that the police really wouldn’t involve or welcome outsiders. That’s my problem with Elly Griffiths’ books, too, I think. However interesting the person’s other work/life is, it somehow takes away from the main plot thrust.

    • I’ve only read one Elly Griffiths so far, FictionFan, but the balance worked for me on that one. What are your favorite legal crime novels? I haven’t found any I love in a long time, but I’m always on the lookout for more recommendations. Maybe I should finally read Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow.

      • Scott Turow is probably my favourite of legal fiction writers. He goes for the slow, in-depth approach rather than the thriller type novel and I often find I’m reading him more as if it were literary fiction than crime. Grisham I love…on a good day! He’s been known to have bad days too, though not so much with his legal books as when he moves away into another field. Have you read The Litigators? Good fun!

        And recently I’ve been enjoying Gordon Ferris’ Brodie books – Brodie is a journalist but his ‘girlfriend’ Sam is a lawyer and they both tend to get involved in the case usually from different angles. I wouldn’t really classify them as legal books, but there’s definitely that angle to them.

        I liked Elly Griffiths first because there seemed to be a logical reason for Ruth’s involvement, but I read a later one in the series and felt the connection was being stretched too far for comfortable credibility. Still enjoyed it, but not as much.

    • I had a similar reaction to reading this book: how will the authors sustain a crime fiction series when the primary character is indirectly involved, and at what point does her direct involvement become too contrived?

      • It’s definitely tricky, Stacia. It’s easier to switch perspectives among detectives in a police procedural series than it is to write a series with a non-police/PI lead character.

  4. I read a few Turows ages ago, including his memoir about his first year of law school that everyone reads when they’re headed to law school, but I’ve always passed on Presumed Innocent because I remember the end of the movie. Grisham I also read years ago, and I think I stopped around The Client. I’ll keep an eye out for The Litigators.

  5. I am not sure about this one. The premise for the series seems unappealing. But I do remember reading books where the read went really fast… which I associate with really liking a book. But I did not like the book. (The example I can remember is Heads You Lose by Christianna Brand. I really did not like almost all the characters and the solution was lame.)

    • I like Jonathan Kellerman novels– also with a psychologist main character who consults with the police– a bit more than this one.

  6. […] And (while on a Nordic roll) she reviews More Bitter Than Death by Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff, which doesn’t involve a lot of actual detecting, but does build some psychological suspense and provide interesting vignettes of patients in therapy. Ultimately, thought she felt it was a fast read, it was something of a disappointment. […]

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