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The Murder of Halland

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3.23  ·  Rating details ·  518 ratings  ·  86 reviews
Bess and Halland live in a small town, where everyone knows everyone else. When Halland is found murdered in the main square the police encounter only riddles. For Bess bereavement marks the start of a journey that leads her to a reassessment of first friends, then family.
Paperback, 167 pages
Published June 2012 by Peirene Press (first published 2009)
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3.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  518 ratings  ·  86 reviews


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Jeffrey Keeten
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Sue Drees
Shelves: nordic-noir
”I recognized the handwriting. I couldn’t breathe. That’s enough. Secret pregnant nieces. Secret rooms. And what kind of secret was this? Maverick? I know what goes on in Halland’s mind. I fell in love with him, of course I know. I can read his slightest passing thought; I can sense him without touching. I can hear the modulations in his voice when we speak on the phone, and I know exactly what each of them means. Such is true love.”

I once read that when people we know die we don’t mourn their l
...more
Fionnuala
I was on a journey.
I'd taken a big book along: The Man Who Loved Dogs
It turned out not to be what I wanted to read just then.
Panic!
No book shops on the way.
What to do?
------------
Open the Kindle app on the trusty iPad and look through the mixed bag of titles.
The Murder of Halland?
Can't remember when or why I bought it but I start reading it anyway.
------------
The sentences are short.
The narrative voice is quirky.
The characters are enigmatic.
The mystery itself even more so.
There is a dog b
...more
Teresa
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Sue
The furniture seemed all wrong.

This sentence from Chapter 3 is indicative of Juul's style, a matter-of-fact telling that leads to surreality, appropriate to the state of mind of the grieving narrator, Bess. She's also trying to deal with (or not deal with, as the case may be) some facts about her common-law husband, Halland, that have come to light after his death.

I finished this last night (the chapters end on mini-cliffhangers, forcing you to turn the page) and though it was late, and going ag
...more
Kinga
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is not your regular Scandinavian crime story. Pia Juul might be from Denmark and the book has ‘murder’ in the title, yet this murder is like the hole in a bagel – it’s right in the centre of it but it’s the stuff around it that actually matters.

Bess, Halland’s widow, narrates the story as she were sleep-walking. As a reader, you are pulled into this strange tale where things don’t follow a rigid cause-effect structure and you don’t even realise it until you close the book and wake up.

Retel
...more
Sue
May 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sue by: Kris Rabberman
Well, here is a mystery with a difference. A victim with secrets..not new. But his secrets even appear to have secrets. And Bess, Halland's long-time partner, has a complicated past of her own. And unlike most of the genre, the emphasis here is more on the telling than on resolution. And what telling.

Each chapter begins with a brief quote from a written work varying from Raymond Chandler to a line from Meunch. All highly readable and also pertinent to the text. Ah the text! Bess is a writer and
...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Huh. This is a weird novella, from the perspective of a woman whose longtime partner is murdered. I hesitate to call it a mystery, since the crime isn't really solved. The writing is fine and there's some decent characterization here, but in the end neither the events nor the characters nor their relationships made a lot of sense to me, and I wasn't quite sure why it ended where it did. I suppose that's a bit like life. This book didn't do much for me, but it's short enough to read in a sitting ...more
Proustitute
Actually, there’s a great deal I haven’t mentioned. How could I possibly include everything? Nonetheless, there is something I haven’t mentioned which I must have left out on purpose. That’s the difference. Or perhaps there isn’t any difference. Perhaps I leave out the things I’m not aware of leaving out on purpose.
What a clever, enigmatic, and downright brilliant book. With deceptive simplicity, Juul turns the murder mystery genre on its head—and then some. Her prose is very lucid, often with
...more
Caroline
Oct 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Caroline by: Kirsty
Shelves: novels
.


What a strange, strange little book.

Any aficionado of detective stories is surely bound to be disappointed. All sorts of questions are raised but hardly any of them are answered. For me the book has serpentine threads and unfinished endings, rather than any sort of solid linear structure.

We experience a kind of stream-of-consciousness with Bess. She is the narrator of the book and partner of a man – Halland – who has just been shot. Bess’s ideas and mullings are eccentric and erratic, and we
...more
Diane Barnes
Mar 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Full disclosure: This book is not a murder mystery, per se. There is a murder, there is an investigation, but there's no real resolution at the end, only more questions. The real mystery seems to be -- Who is Bess? Who is Halland? Did anything really happen, or is Bess just slowly going insane?

I have to admit that I couldn't give this one 5 stars even though the writing was stellar. Everything takes place inside Bess's very confused mind, and for this reader, it was an exhausting place to be. It
...more
Cheryl
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Cheryl by: Proustitute
An antidote to the usual Scandanivian murder mysteries. Take every standard bit from the typical crime novel, insert, and then leave it flapping in the breeze. But it's a nice breeze. And the blue fjords are like trembling mirrors. In my mind, the protagonist narrator Bess is always wearing a baggy Nordic sweater just like Sarah's in Forbrydelsen. And somehow it all works.
Andrew
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
The book begins with a murder. Soon detectives are on the scene, and the victim’s life is being unravelled piece by piece, revealing a double life and several people with possible motives.

But this is not your average detective novel. For one thing, The Murder of Halland is narrated in the first person by Halland’s widow, Bess. This makes a difference, because what we see is a very skewed view of the investigation. She discovers some things about Halland, like an apartment in Copenhagen he’d been
...more
Kirsty
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Murder of Halland, written by Denmark’s ‘foremost literary author’ Pia Juul, is a lovely addition to the Peirene Press family. First published in Denmark in 2009, the novella has won Denmark’s most prestigious literary prize, Danske Banks Litteraturpris. This English edition has been translated by Martin Aitken.

The Murder of Halland is told from the first person perspective of author Bess Roe, who, at the outset of the book, states that one views the dawning of spring mornings with indiffere
...more
Bettie☯
Opening quote:

May they come together,
happy in heart forever,
who long to be as one! SWEDISH BALLAD (trad)



Opening: The night before, we sat in the living room. I had coffee; he drank a beer. We watched a police drama. 'I wouldn't mind looking like her,' I said, referring to the detective, Danish TV's only mature heroine. 'You don't, though, do you?' I looked over at him. Women's faces shrivel; men acquire substance. 'You've acquired substance,' I said. 'Where?' he asked, worried. 'Ha ha ha,' I
...more
verbava
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
для цієї маленької книжки, яка починається з покійника, настільки неважливо, хто вбивця, що нам нічого й не кажуть прямим текстом. важливо, мабуть, про жінку покійного та її переживання, але вона занадто нудна й несимпатична, щоб хоч трохи перейнятися. якось так.
osoi
Mar 15, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
У дамочки-писательницы убивают сожителя, после чего она пускается во все тяжкие и переосмысливает свою жизнь, по пути сетуя на вышеуказанного убитого и его секреты. В аннотации есть намек на детективную составляющую, но в лучшем случае «Убийство Халланда» – это слабенький психологический триллер. Кто и почему стал убийцей становится ясно почти в самом начале, причем на один конкретный намек тяжело закрыть глаза, ибо голова продолжает работать и по принуждению отключаться не умеет. Вместо того, ч ...more
Ken Fredette
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pia Juul was amazing in her story telling. She takes you in the first person through the killing of Halland and you are never sure who killed him but you are left with ideas of who did it. This would have made a good Hitchcock movie. The ending makes you wonder even father if.....
Des
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scandinavian
A little gem and not really a crime novel, but very realistic and emotional as well as insightful into how grief is lived/experienced.

Whilst most crime thrillers are far better organised and far more real than one's own life, this story is not. And that is what I like about it most. Most of the story takes place in the grieving women's mind and is therefore a great psychoanalytical novel.
Ronald Morton
Literary fiction meets murder mystery (though the intersection of those two is not exactly uncommon) - works better as literary fiction than as a murder mystery, and unfortunately I was in the mood for murder. Nothing here really distinguishes itself; it's decent, but that's about it.

Go read a Tana French novel instead.
Lee
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
Pretty disappointing to be honest. The main character I found pretty irritating, and the plot slightly unbelievable and contrived. Felt like it was trying really hard to be a bit abstract, but it failed in my opinion.
Jim
Dec 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
There is a moment when, later on in the book after things have started to get back to something like normal, our narrator, Bess, sits down to watch television:
All I needed for happiness was a detective series. And there were lots to choose from. Simplicity was a virtue. First a murder, nothing too bestial. Then a police inspector. Insights into his or her personal problems, perhaps. Details about the victim. Puzzles and anomalies. Lines of investigation. Clues. Detours. Breakthrough. Case solved
...more
Roslyn Muir
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I picked up The Murder of Halland because I've never seen a novella that was also a murder mystery, and yes, I was looking for a short uncomplicated read. However, what I found was supremely unusual and odd in a delightful way. As Bess's story is in first person it seems impossible that she could have any insights into the crime of her husband's murder, yet her interactions with people bring clues to the reader and the enigmatic ending left me laughing. I almost feel like I should read it again.
Jonathan Norton
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
I don't watch Scandi-noir, so I don't know if this is a brilliant satire or subversive counter-reading or whatever. It passes the time, that's all I can say. I've already forgotten whether she really did it or not.
Antonomasia
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is prose rather like John Le Carre's, all the economy of thriller / crime writing but none of the clumsiness, excavating the psychological strata of character with a skill that plenty more ostentatious authors don't have. Juul's focus in this 'existential murder mystery' is less on events and case, though. Its similarity to The Killing - which proves to be in the still rather novel way it follows the progress of investigation from the shaky[cam] perspective of Bess, grieving for her murdere ...more
David Hebblethwaite
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
It’s a crime story, but the crime is in the background; the real story is the effect of bereavement on Bess, Pia Juul’s protagonist. When first we meet Bess, she goes to bed shortly after her partner Halland. When she wakes, it’s to discover that Halland has been shot dead. For the rest of the novella, Bess has to live with the aftermath of Halland’s murder, and hope that she can come to some sort of new equilibrium in life.

The Murder of Halland is a fine character study (and Martin Aitken’s tra
...more
Flannery
Aug 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ellie
May 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime, translated
Bess wakes up one morning to find her partner, Halland gone. There's a knock at the door and the police are arresting her for his murder. A witness declared his last words were “my wife has shot me” but Bess and Halland never married.

The sentences are short and the language sparse, creating the illusion of a woman in shock. She gradually goes through the stages of grief as she learns little things about Halland's life. It's a very believable little crime story in that Bess doesn't get involved i
...more
Terri
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
Well this was a quirky little book. I liked it but it was not what I expected from the title. I expected a bagel and got a doughnut. Not a murder novel per se, but a character sketch of Bess and those who surround her, all emotionally stunted or restricted in some way. Bess' way of grieving is not unusual, as grief is personal, seeking out what is needed. Bess, being too introspective in life and perhaps an alcoholic, needs to still her mind and not be swallowed up with the dissection of her lif ...more
Lee
Feb 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I know grief is chaotic; I've walked that lonely road numerous times. But this book confounded me a good bit at the beginning. I wondered if it was because of the Danish to English translation. But then I totally got her. She wasn't always likeable, yet around every corner she glimpsed some new paradox about Halland's mysterious life—which she had never before realized was mysterious! She acted inappropriately, ranted, longed for her daughter, then seemed almost indifferent when she appeared. I ...more
Nick Sweeney
Sep 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Prize-winning Danish author Pia Juul's take on the crime novel. She may use the furniture - small, dull town, a nearby coast, laconic, detached characters - but avoids the cliches of Scandinavian crime stories. Absurd in parts, funny throughout, and beautifully written. I reviewed this book for Sabotage Reviews. See the review here: http://sabotagereviews.com/2012/10/01...
Catherine
Nov 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Expected a murder mystery, found a meditation on bereavement. I enjoyed the style a great deal but was not invested in the plot or characters. Still, shout out to this epigraph:

“I see you lead a double life. There'll be an extra charge for that.” -a fortune teller
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Pia Juul is a Danish poet, prose writer and translator. She has received several prizes and is a member of the Danish Academy. She has also taught at the Danish writing school Forfatterskolen in Copenhagen
“Never does a person feel so wise, so mature and so adult as when she is not.” 5 likes
“The act of making a decision can propel you along for a while, even if you never do anything.” 2 likes
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