Death of a Carpet Dealer is the seventh book in Swedish crime fiction writer Karin Wahlberg’s series featuring police commissioner Claes Claesson and his wife Veronika Lundborg, a doctor at Oskarshamn Hospital. It is set in the small coastal town of Oskarshamn in Sweden and Istanbul in Turkey. As far as I know, this is the first book in this series that has been translated into English (by Neil Betteridge).
Karin Wahlberg is a gynecologist and obstetrician in Lund, Sweden, when she is not writing books. Her stories typically involve “ordinary” people – people who on the outside look like your average, plain Swede, but hide deep and sometimes quite dark secrets. As in The Death of a Carpet Dealer, Wahlberg slowly, delicately reveals the hidden secrets and thickens the plot by making the characters richer and fuller. This is a well-proven and very effective style.
Death of a Carpet Dealer is a “traditional” crime fiction, in the sense that it is more like classic English crime fiction novels than modern Scandinavian crime fiction. At the core is a classic mystery: The brutal and surprising murder of a seemingly quite ordinary Swedish dealer of Oriental carpets, Carl-Ivar Olsson, on board a small ferry in Istanbul, Turkey.
The carpet dealer was killed in a very professional manner in a very public place. He had not been robbed. Why would somebody murder Olsson – a decent, kind, seemingly quite ordinary fellow – in this fashion? Why in Turkey?
As the story progresses, we partly follow the investigators, partly observe other characters in the drama. More and more, illicit romances, flawed characters, odd behavior, irrational dreams and ambitions are revealed to us. And gradually the seemingly absurd murder becomes more and more understandable, but even so Karin Wahlberg manages to maintain the suspense almost to the very end.
I liked The Death of a Carpet Dealer and found it quite entertaining – more entertaining than actually suspenseful, I think; but that’s quite OK. Karin Wahlberg seems to have done quite a lot of research about Turkey and carpets for this book, and uses it excellently. The book suffers a little from some errors in the translation and some typos here and there which are a little annoying, but not enough to affect the joy of reading it. Police commissioner Claes Claesson is an interesting character that I would like to meet again. He has depth and kindness, yet is a sharp and thinking, wise man. While not a page-turner, I liked this book enough to recommend it.