Chasing the Storm by Martin Molsted
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is undoubtedly an ambitious book; something debut novels often are. Just as often, they don’t live up to those ambitions as is the case with this one.
The protagonist, Togrim Rygg at first seems to be just some kind of business man – and suddenly, out of nowhere, he acts like James Bond. He refuses to take a map because he has “everything memorized. Safer.” and likewise he declares “All hackers have big heads”. There’s absolutely no indication at that point in the book how he would know that – it’s completely out-of-character. This is most likely the crudest way I’ve ever seen an author use to convey to the reader that there might be more to the unlikely hero than immediately meets the eye.
Similarly, his friend, Marko Marin, tells Rygg “That is what I need from you. Keep us in form.”. At this point of the novel, Marin has no way of knowing that Rygg might be more than a random business man. Such inconsistencies are marring the entire book.
That’s not all, though: Throughout the entire book, Rygg switches between being a James Bond parody and a disillusioned business man. His back story in the military is mostly implausible and doesn’t really add up nor does it help the book in any real way apart from serving as a vehicle to allow our heroes to travel all over the world – because there hardly seems to be a country in which Rygg doesn’t have friends.
It’s not healthy to be friends with him, by the way, because pretty much all of his friends end up dead after talking to him. Who killed them and why exactly usually never gets cleared up as long as they die spectacularly (e. g. being beheaded). Not that Rygg cares either; all of his friends seem to be pretty expendable to him – he never mourns their deaths but just ponders whom to get into mortal danger next.
Speaking of danger: This is supposed to be a thriller. The problem is: There are no thrills at all. Even when in danger, the story never gets beyond luke-warm. The reader *knows* this can’t possibly be the end of the respective character so we’re not exactly left biting our nails, worrying for the hero to make it through. In fact, I found myself yawning and just waiting how the disillusioned business man becomes James Bond again and gets himself out of whatever situation he’s in. Even if said situation has the potential to get people into fast-paced action, the author manages to drag the story aloooooong.
It’s sad because there’s everything in this book that *could* make it a thriller: Danger, corruption, organised crime (which is depicted as fat Vodka-drinking Russians, though…), traitors, etc. It’s just that the author is completely and utterly unable to forge a decent story from his ingredients. It feels like he grabbed all clichés he could find, put them into a bucket and mixed them uninspiredly into a novel.
It doesn’t help either that none of the characters are fleshed out: Marko Marin is a “kind of journalist” but we never get to really *know* him. He’s simply around, a sketch of himself without any substance. What his real motivation is, we never get to know and nobody will really care about that either. Togrim Rygg isn’t any better. He drifts along with whatever happens – mostly being passive, wishing his life hadn’t become what it is and to bed the Marin’s girlfriend. he latter usually being his greatest worry and desire. She in turn is so forgettable that I’ve indeed already forgotten her name. Her most important trait is wearing translucent underwear and not wearing bras. That’s pretty much all she’s doing. After all, she’s just someone who happens to be in this book for no discernible reason.
There are quite a few lose ends as well – Rygg’s love interest, Marko’s girlfriend, gives Rygg strange last minute instructions at one point, supposedly as a messenger of Marko to whom Rygg had talked before. Rygg even wonders about that – but never asks either of them and it’s just being forgotten about.
“Forgotten” is something I’ve used often throughout this review and forgettable is what this book is. It’s not a complete let-down, though, so I’ll still give it two stars out of five.
Chasing the Storm by Martin Molsted