A review of Strindberg’s Star by Jan Walletin

Reviewed by Sheri Harper

Strindberg’s Star
by Jan Walletin
Translated by: Rachel Willson-Broyles
Viking
ISBN: 978-0-670-02357-8, Hardcover: 464 pages, May 24, 2012

Strindberg’s Star is a fast-paced thriller set in Scandanavia and other parts of Europe. The opening of the book starts with a climb into and dive down into the Falun Copper mine from one of the closed off mining shafts, going deeper than another diving group. The Falun Copper mine was shut down and has filled with extremely cold water at the deepest levels of the mine. The diver is a dare-devil loser named Erik Hall who kicks off an international hunt for the items that he brings back with him from this exploration. Murder is one issue driving the story forward, the other is a treasure, and the third, the mysterious connection between Nazi Germany and hell or Niflheim and Nastrondu.

Don Titelman, the non-hero of the story is the grandson of a Nazi Germany prison camp experiment survivor. He grew up haunted by his grandmother’s collection of Nazi memorabilia and her horrible tales of the experiments conducted on her. His one saving grace in the story is he protested against the Neo-Nazi movement. Don Titelman is a little heroic because he survives, but he does so by popping a continual set of drugs he prescribes for himself—a big yuck in my mind because I don’t like to see drug use seemingly nontoxic. Luckily the story doesn’t depend on Don as a character—he just has to keep stumbling foreward. And his lawyer helper survives without the drugs and placed in equal danger but she has a secret, too. Don does change in the end as a result of powers from outside after he does, in fact, get to find out about hell.

Luckily for him, he has a sister named Hex that has managed to eke out a hidden life with access to high tech connections and inside transportation. She will hopefully appear in another novel since she seems very competent.

Chasing Don and his lawyer is an organization tracking Nazi history and a psychic trained to speak to the talisman, find secrets of hell and in arm-to-arm combat named Elena. Elena is a tragic but also heroic character. When Don meets up with her, they both get to experience some of Don’s grandmother’s experience firsthand. But then the chase is on, far to the north aboard a Russian ice cutter. The story has elements of horror, especially when Don gets to visit a graveyard and elements of mystery in the search for the artifacts as well as good Nazi historic facts. It makes the mystery a quick read.

About the reviewer: Sheri Fresonke Harper is a poet and writer. She’s been published in many small journals and is working on her second science fiction novel. See www.sfharper.com

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