Canadian author John Moss has created a different type of private investigator in Harry Lindstrom: a retired philosophy professor that now specializes in murder cases. The remaining member of the Lindstrom & Malone team (Malone was his wife), he inhabits an apartment in downtown Toronto which he shares with the “ghost” or rather, the voice of his deceased wife, Karen. Think of Nick and Nora Charles as academics, and not as the socialites they portrayed in the popular “Thin Man” movies.
As Lindstrom Alone (2018, Iguana Books) begins, a potential client has just been sent to Harry’s apartment by Toronto Police Superintendent Miranda Quin. Upon opening the door, Harry is greeted by an attractive older woman, Birgitta Ghiberti. She soon informs Harry that her son, Bernd will try to kill him. Caught off-guard, Harry reacts:
For a moment his mind went blank, then spiralled, grasping for meaning. He could hear the silence that followed like the roar of waves crashing against rocks on the shore below. He smiled. He rarely smiled. He smiled because he was morbidly amused. He was engaged, curious, and pleasantly aggravated at the absence of subtlety.
“I don’t feel very threatened,” he said.
“He intends to kill me as well. He is a serial killer.”
While Karen’s “voice” tells him to to be careful with this woman and to not take the case, Harry cannot help but agreeing to find the woman’s son (whom she blames for the death of her three daughters and several other women), and bring him to justice, thus saving both their lives.
Harry begins a lengthy investigation into past police files concerning the deaths of the three Ghiberti girls, and in another story twist, he comes face to face with Bernd (in Toronto) who tells Harry it is all a big misunderstanding and that his mother won’t be needing his services any longer. Now even more confused but all the more intrigued, Harry travels to Iceland, Sweden and the Fårö Islands following Birgitta and Bernd, looking for answers as to why and how the Ghiberti’s became so dysfunctional as a family and how Bernd’s sisters and the other young women became his (?) victims (they all froze to death with no signs of a struggle). Mr. Moss writes the plot in such a way that we are as drawn into the mystery as is Harry.
It truly does make for a good story, but I have to agree with a reviewer at Goodreads who said of Lindstrom Alone:
“I’d give the first 2/3 of the book a 4/5, but the last part 1 or 2/5. So many murders, so many potential serial killers working in cahoots or not, so much ping-ponging around with the protagonist(s) making psychological assumptions… in the end I don’t know who was guilty of what.”
I really enjoyed the concept of a psychological (or even a philosophical) thriller, but I felt I required a course in Philosophy 101 to get most out of the references to Kafka, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and others. The different countries, languages and place names along with peculiar police procedures (by Swedish policeperson Inspector Arnason and her gargoyle-like partner Constable Sverdrup) left me feeling somewhat alienated from the storyline and perplexed by events (as was Harry). Strange, too were the two silent, sedentary aged aunts living in the house on Fårö Island who recalled to mind the knitting women “guarding the door of Darkness” in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (a true psychological thriller if there ever was one). Nevertheless, there’s some very good writing by Mr. Moss here, and I am quite keen to read the second book in the trilogy, Lindstrom’s Progress.
(My review copy of Lindstrom Alone was supplied by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.)
Lindstrom Alone by John Moss
Lindstrom Alone is available in paperback and Kindle ebook format.
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