Rygg, Pernille - 'The Butterfly Effect' (translated by Joan Tate)
In a bracing dash of Norwegian noir contrasting with the snow white of an Oslo winter, THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT opens just after Igi Heitmann's father, a private detective, has been killed in a hit and run accident. Igi is a disturbed young woman who has never got over her parents' divorce when she was 12: she hates her stepfather (a businessman) and despises her mother; she can't stick at her career as a psychology researcher at the local hospital; and has married Benny, a gay transvestite.
This is a cracking start to an excellent novel. In the wake of her father's death, Igi can't settle to domestic bliss with Benny, of whom she is very fond despite the superficially obvious incompatibilities, so she decides to camp out at her father's office, in a seedy part of town. She discovers among the paperwork on the desk that Heitmann had been investigating the disappearance of a young woman, Siv Underland, from the neighbouring satellite town of Asker. More for therapy than for any other reason, Igi decides to continue his investigation.
Igi slowly but doggedly talks to everyone connected with the missing girl: Siv's parents, neighbours and colleagues as well as various strange members of the younger generation, as it turns out that Siv seemed to have been involved in witchcraft and drugs. Soon, Igi ties in Siv's disappearance with that of another girl, Petra, some years before, and, together with her father's old partner from his days in the police, begins to piece together the story of what happened in the past.
In this brief book, the author ties in many strands of Norwegian society in a tapestry of social comment: business deals between unprincipled men; blackmail; gambling; medical malpractice; and the spectre of child abuse. At the same time, the reader comes to know and sympathise with Igi's rootlessness and sense of detachment, and to like her friends and quirky husband (perhaps the most solid character in the book). She's also a very clear thinker about science and probability, as well as determined to get to the bottom of things without being deflected. Igi is very comfortable in the alternative society, and can't settle in the respectable, bourgeois and comfortable "norm". It is her willingness to follow up any lead, and her lack of judgemental reaction to everyone she meets, however initially repellent, that eventually leads her to a solution to the events of the past. As the book ends, she is beginning to accept a more conformist future, but time (in the shape of the next book in the series, THE GOLDEN SECTION) will tell. I think this is a wonderful book, and particularly liked the way that the author portrayed its many fleeting characters so tellingly. The star, however, is the uncompromising character of Igi.
Maxine Clarke, England
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