I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork
Today on The Tattooed Book I’m reviewing I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork (pen name of Norwegian novelist, playwright and singer/songwriter Frode Sander Øien).
I adore scandi crime in any format; books, television, film or podcasts, I’ll happily devour it all. Male and female protagonists are usually equally strong, brooding and with a ton of baggage, set in beautiful frosty locations with baddies that make Hannibal Lecter look like a big ol’ softy (oh, and don’t forget the jumper, there are great jumpers!). So when I saw I’m Travelling Alone gaining a lot of positive attention pre-publication, it went on my wishlist right away…even though it’s taken me an age to get around to reading it.
I’m Travelling Alone became an instant bestseller in Samuel Bjork’s home country in 2013 and was published in the UK in 2016. ITV has bought the television rights to the series and is planning English and Norwegian versions of the show.
The book opens on the gruesome discovery of a young girls body hanging from a tree, with a sign reading ‘I’m travelling alone’ around her neck. She’s dressed as if ready for her first day of school, in a new dress with a backpack full of books that have someone else’s name on.
Veteran investigator Holger Munch is re-assembling his top special homicide unit to investigate the murder but there’s one woman, his former partner, who isn’t so easy to get in touch with. Mia Krüger never fully recovered after the death of her sister, and when she killed the man she held responsible while trying to arrest him, her career was thrown in to question.
With her career in tatters and the press lapping up the story, Mia withdrew from society, she sold her home and bought the most secluded property she can, surrounded by the stunning Norwegian countryside. There she decides to kill herself on the ten year anniversary of her sister’s death. Already drinking herself into an early grave and self-medicating, Holger turns up on her doorstep just days before she is due to put her plan into effect. He shows her the photos and she reads the scene like no-one else can; she nervously agrees to help.
But it’s not just Mia that has problems, Holger’s daughter is about to get married and although he dotes on his granddaughter, his mother is in care and attempting to change her will to make her new church the beneficiary of her estate. Holger doesn’t want the money for himself but he wants to keep it in the family, to help his granddaughter, and he can’t help but feel there’s something suspicious about the newly set up church.
Mia soon makes a discovery on the body that has previously been missed, a one carved into the little girl’s fingernail. It’s then that she realises this murder is just the beginning and the killer isn’t going to stop with one.
I’m Travelling Alone is a brilliant example of how two strong, well-rounded protagonists can really make a novel pop from the page and come to life. Mia and Holger are a classic chalk and cheese partnership that work together perfectly. Both are weighed down with their own baggage but as a team, they excel.
I did have a couple of small problems with this book, one being the sheer amount of different characters, it became quite an effort trying to remember everyone. There are brilliantly full-bodied descriptions of the main characters so they are clearly defined in your imagination but the smaller ‘bit parts’ aren’t often fleshed out, leaving them harder to remember.
There were also a couple of very large investigatory leaps. Clues are uncovered and a couple of far-fetched possibilities were presumed to be fact. As the entire plot relied on one of these giant improbable leaps I found it quite frustrating. These giant leaps and presumptions were always right and were necessary for the story to flow but just tightening up these slight plot holes would have made all the difference for me.
Although this novel does have a couple of issues I did still really enjoy it. Mia and Holger make a brilliant team and I’m sure they’ll transfer from page to screen really well, it’s definitely a series I’ll be watching. It’s not perfect scandi crime but it’s damn close and I will be devouring the second novel in the series (The Owl Always Hunts at Night) as soon as possible.
If you like this, you’ll love Dark Pines by Will Dean.