Review - More Bitter than Death, Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff
Sometimes reliving the past revives old demons . . .
In a Stockholm apartment, five-year-old Tilde watches from under the kitchen table as her mother is brutally kicked to death.
Meanwhile, in another part of town, psychotherapist Siri Bergman and her colleague Aina meet their new patients - a group of women, all of whom are victims of domestic violence.
The second novel in the Siri Bergman series, MORE BITTER THAN DEATH, suffered a little from this reader having missed the first book - SOME KIND OF PEACE. It left such a sense of missing out for this reader, that SOME KIND OF PEACE was slotted into the teetering pile of books to be read.
A big part of the reason for that reaction is that Siri Bergman is a tricky character to come to grips with part-way through her story. Not to say that she's not particularly intriguing, strong and fascinating, there just always felt like something about her was cloudy / didn't quite add up.
Particularly when you combine her with friend, and colleague Aina and classmate Vijay all collaborating on a domestic abuse study, making for a slight disconnection between character connection and plot acceptance. Particularly as this plot scenario allows the authors to discuss a wide range of manifestations of abuse, as well as victim reactions and coping strategies in a very elegant manner.
Once one of the abuse cases turns deadly, there's further opportunity to look closely at the attitudes towards, and roles of victims in these abusive relationships. Never once does any of this tip over into self-righteousness or overtly "positioned". Rather it remains an exploration, a consideration for want of a better term. It's a very successful way of handling particularly challenging subject matter with sensitivity, without shying away from the fundamental questions that need to be answered.
The fact that this subject is handled in this manner, within a plot that's multi-levelled, that involves the members of the self-help trial group, and the facilitators equally is cleverly done, and it's seamlessly delivered. Often when you're reading something that comes from an author collaboration, you can see hints of the stitching, or different hands. There's none of that here - nothing jars in terms of pace, delivery or credibility.