The Susan Effect

Written by Peter Høeg

Review written by Pippa McAllister


The Susan Effect
Harvill Secker
RRP: £16.99
Released: August 3 2017
HBK

Eminent Danish physicist Susan Svendsen is on holiday in India with her husband Laban, and 16-year-old twins when she finds herself in an Indian prison, charged with assault with intent to kill. Susan is visited by Thorkild Hegn, who introduces himself as being from the Danish Embassy although she feels this is doubtful. He implies that he may be able to help with her release, although she wonders why he would do so.

Several weeks later and back in Denmark she is reunited with her family and finds out what price she is expected to pay for the strings that have been pulled to bring her home.

Thorkild tasks Susan with discovering the names of the members of the Danish Parliamentary Future Commission and the minutes of their final meetings. The purpose of the Commission was to advise successive governments on projected scenarios; its existence and composition was kept secret to avoid undue political or scientific influence. Although Susan has many connections in the scientific and academic world, progress proves to be difficult and it soon becomes apparent that there are those who do not wish her to succeed. Finding out why this is the case becomes as necessary as finding out about the Commission.

So what is The Susan Effect? Susan can make people confide in her, however some people seem oblivious to it and others are able to consciously resist. To a lesser extent, Laban and the twins have the same ability. The family are dysfunctional and their chaotic relationships provide some of the lighter moments.

Although the characters feel a little under-developed, and few are likable there is something about them that keeps them in the mind after the end of the novel is reached.

The book is well written and engaging, although I didn't find it the fastest of reads, though the storyline is absorbing, at times intense and immersive.

Conspiracy, murder, Nobel Prize winners, and political scandals - The Susan Effect has them all. At first I found some of the technical detail a little daunting but once I realised that it is not necessary to understand the science to engage with the plot, I really enjoyed this work.

Full marks must also go to the translator Martin Aitken 



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