Monday, May 21, 2018

Book Review: You Don’t Know Me by Aza Clave

An International Crime Mystery with Prevalent Erotic Elements

You Don’t Know Me is the debut novel by Aza Clave, the first book in the Hannah Hauptmann series, and a best seller in Germany.  Set in Berlin and Stockholm, it provides a look into the dark and heartless world of those caught in the European Refugee Crisis, circa 2015.  Anders Anderson leads the investigation into a series of grisly murders of immigrants to Sweden, as the hatred of the right wing of that country reaches the boiling point.  Hannah, on the other hand, is trying to rebuild her life after leaving her husband and accidentally bumping into Anderson, her long-lost love.

I had some difficulty getting into the book, the first third introducing numerous characters and being slanted toward erotica; some of the scenes are rather graphic (potential reader be forewarned).  From that point forward, sex shared the stage with the mystery more equally, but even at the end, the erotic element seemed overplayed.  It wasn’t ‘spice’ for one or two characters or a means to clarify someone’s personality, but rather, it was nearly a universal trait among the book’s figures, both good and bad.  As such, it did little to further the plot; at most, it helped explain the nature of some of the violence.

As for the mystery itself, it was generally well done.  The action and suspense build through twists and revelations at a good pace.  Tension would have been greater had the procedural elements been better done.  At one point, for example, law enforcement personnel were ‘tossing’ a sim card box between them, yet later, they found one of the killer’s prints on it.  No smudges?  And despite the brutal nature of the crimes – torture, rape, mutilation involving multiple suspects – the police had no physical evidence beyond those prints for most of the book.

English is not the author’s native tongue and in places, it showed.  For example, after finding a comfortable place to stay, Hannah “…glared at the striking maisonette.”   Glared?  Point of view was also an issue on occasion.  Sometimes it changed in the middle of a paragraph; other times, it was not clear for long stretches of text.  But overall, the story is well written, with the author’s descriptions of settings – the sights, sounds, and smells of them – being a strength.

Overall, You Don’t Know Me is an unflinching look at fictionalized atrocities occurring during the European Refugee Crisis of 2015.  With those strong roots, the book would have been better served with less focus on sex, which did little to progress the story, and more on procedural realism.

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