Book review: Call Me Princess by Sara Blædel

25 07 2017

Sara Blædel is a Danish crime novelist with experience in journalism and publishing, best known for her award-winning series of novels featuring Detective Inspector Louise Rick.


Call Me Princess (Kald mig prinsesse, 2005, translated by Erik J Macki and Tara F Chace), also published in the UK as Blue Blood, is the second of Blædel’s Louise Rick novels and the first of the half-dozen which have thus far seen English translation. (It’s also the first book I’ve experienced as an audiobook, which went somewhat more straightforwardly than I’d anticipated.)


When a romantic encounter with a man met through online dating goes wrong, Susanne Hansson becomes the victim of a savage rape. DI Rick is assigned Hansson’s case, but struggles to make headway against the psychological trauma which Susanne experiences following the attack. The assailant has taken particular care to avoid leaving anything which might constitute forensic evidence, and all that Rick and her team have to go on is a very vague description of a young man whom Hansson would very much wish to forget. But when a second, similar attack occurs a few days later, with fatal consequences, it underscores the urgency of identifying and apprehending the rapist before any more women suffer at his hands.

The book’s subject matter is clearly emotionally charged, and this intensity comes through starkly in Blædel’s spare and insightful prose. There’s an admirable depth to the characterisation of the flawed but empathetic Rick, who identifies strongly with Hansson’s vulnerability following the attack, and there’s sufficient variety to the identities of the supporting cast, and sufficient exploration of the main characters’ home lives, that the book’s telling of the investigation feels credible and thorough, with a disturbing degree of gritty detail in the descriptions of sexual assault and its physical, psychological, and social aftermath. There is, almost inevitably, an aspect of needless in-harm’s-wayism in the direction Rick takes to solve the case, but this is plausibly accounted for in the minutiae of the investigation, and the book never sashays into sensationalism or overreach. It’s notable, also, that for a book first published over a decade ago, its description of the online dating environment still feels current: almost the only thing that dates it is a reference to the poor quality of images generally obtained from mobile phones.

This is a tense, moderate, and quite deeply moving police procedural, well-constructed and vividly written, and Rick is an interesting character well worth encountering again.




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