Sunday, July 1, 2012

Review: The Girl Who Smelled Like Cheese

The Girl Who Smelled Like Cheese
By Björn Jörgensörn
Umlaut Press 562 pages
Reviewed by Christamar Varicella

Once again, the Swedish novelist Björn Jörgensörn has produced a compelling thriller destined to top the best seller lists for many months to come.  Like his first two novels, The Girl Who Played in Traffic and The Girl Who Picked Her Nose, the story centers on Günter Pflefferkvisktshhheek, a dumpy middle-aged reporter who finds himself embroiled in a constitutional crisis that could bring down the government.  It seems a former prime minister has been manipulating the secret police into helping him molest a thirteen-year-old autistic computer hacker named Elizabeth Salamander, and only Pflefferkvisktshhheek, his part-time lover and former boss, Tersa Bloomgärten, his police detective sister, a half a dozen members of the justice department, another (nicer) former prime minister, a Brazilian wrestler named Räul Tomlinson, and the cast of Swedish Happy Days, can help bring the villains to justice.

Now I had no problem with the far-fetched plot of the book, nor did I mind the endless parade of undeveloped characters that waltzed in and out of the story with varying degrees of purposefulness.  The stilted dialogue did not concern me (“Let’s go back to my place where you can undress me until I am naked.”) nor did the utter lack of description cause me to despair.  I was even ready to swallow the notion that every female character in the series would find a smelly middle-aged reporter sexually appealing.  The one thing that I really had a problem with, the thing that I couldn’t overlook, was the fact that every single character, without exception, drank an exceptional amount of coffee.

Now I like a nice cup of Sanka as much as the next guy, but it isn’t on my mind every second of the day, and I often turn down coffee when it is offered to me.  I know people who don’t drink coffee at all, but apparently my caffeine-deprived friends don’t exist in the world of Björn Jörgensörn.  Just once, I would have liked to have seen a character say, “Coffee?  No thanks, but I’d love a banana milkshake if you’ve got one.”  Alas, it was not to be. 

Is abusing coffee a Swedish thing?  Jörgensörn’s characters drink coffee at breakfast, lunch, dinner, with snacks, and before they go to bed at night.  They drink coffee to wake up and they drink it to relax.  They even drink coffee during sex.  (““Is this hot enough for you?” Günter asked as he mounted her taut pale body.  “The intercourse is certainly hot enough, but my cup could use a warm up.”  “I’ll be back in a jiffy.”  Tersa stretched a bony arm behind her pillow and smiled before draining her cup completely.”)  Apparently in Sweden having an extreme case of coffee breath is a real turn-on.

All in all though I’d have to give the book and the series four thumbs down and only three thumbs up, which, due to a rather strange and convoluted rating system is actually pretty good.


  1. hahaha. Accurate. You missed iBooks though. lol

  2. Thanks for sharing this - it made me snort in a most unladylike manner. I'll be the Swedes would find THAT sexy!