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Book Review: American by Day by Derek B. Miller (4/5)

21 Jan

I wanted to read a book off my list and after running through the stacks for ten minutes, I finally picked up this book. I’d read the first in the series with my book club a few years ago and while I knew there was a sequel, I hadn’t made it a priority though I’m glad I’ve finally gotten to it.

Cover image via Goodreads

American by Day (Sigrid Ødegård #2) by Derek B. Miller

Other books by Miller reviewed on this blog:

Norwegian by Night (and Book Club Reflection)

Summary from Goodreads:

SHE KNEW IT WAS A WEIRD PLACE. She’d heard the stories, seen the movies, read the books. But now police Chief Inspector Sigrid Ødegård has to leave her native Norway and actually go there; to that land across the Atlantic where her missing brother is implicated in the mysterious death of a prominent African-American academic. AMERICA.

Sigrid is plunged into a United States where race and identity, politics and promise, reverberate in every aspect of daily life. Working with—or, if necessary, against—the police, she must negotiate the local political minefields and navigate the backwoods of the Adirondacks to uncover the truth before events escalate further.

I love not reading summaries so that books have a better chance of surprising me as this one did. I figured it would take place in the States but that’s all I had to go on. Marcus was a surprise. Irv was a surprise. The racial tensions were a huge surprise. I wasn’t expecting it but it made a lot of sense. For Sigrid, Norwegian by Night had a lot of xenophobic consequences. Did she shoot someone because he was different from her where she might have made allowances or excuses for someone more like herself? This book took that theme and ran with it into a beautiful story that I really loved.

The characters and their emotions drove the story wonderfully. Sigrid’s confusion and determination amazed me throughout the book and I loved reading from her point of view. Marcus’s sadness permeated his entire character and I thought his ending was wonderful and I can’t imagine it wrapping up any other way. Irv blew me away and I went from hating him to loving him throughout the book. Miller’s ability to create characters with a full range of emotions was really enjoyable.

Sigrid was an amazing character and easy to love. She was smart and determined. It was clear she had some internal struggles with where she was in her life but she was also very proud of her career and what she’d been able to accomplish in her life. I liked that she didn’t flash her knowledge around even though she was the smartest person in the room a lot of the time.

Melinda was easy to relate to. Having grown up in the US, she’s almost immune to the racial violence in our country and she’s not involved in politics and hasn’t been on the force long enough for her to think about it. I feel a lot of Americans are in the same boat and are almost blind to the violence in our country until it hits them over the head.

Derek B. Miller
Image via Facebook

Sigrid and Melinda’s time together was my favorite part of the book. Sigrid had so much to teach Melinda and Melinda was such a willing pupil that it felt like a great mentorship was taking place. I loved Sigirid’s patience and how she was able to show Melinda that she could be successful and lead in a position she never considered before. Female mentorships like that are so powerful.

The jumps to Sigrid’s father seemed unnecessary to me. He didn’t add anything to the book unless Sigrid was with him. Seeing him around his house, looking at old mementos seemed like a filler until we were back to Sigrid and Irv.

The book talked a lot about institutionalized racism and Sigrid created a great sounding board for talking about the issue in America. She had similar misgivings about what she’d done in Norway but when she saw the way the issue was addressed in the US, she realized her issues were small in comparison. I’m not saying they’re insignificant but smaller. With an outsider’s view, she was able to express stark opinions about the state of police violence against minority communities. This book addressed the issue as it affected a small town; it would be amplified in a large city but the small setting let Miller dig into the issue more. I liked how he was able to address this.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book is funny without telling you it’s funny. Sigrid’s comments are hilarious but they’re never emphasized so if you’re looking for a crime novel, this isn’t bogged down with humor. But if you’re like me and looking for a book that’s a great mix of crime, literary character development, and humor, you can bust a gut with it and really enjoy it. Humor is great in almost any genre and I think this showed that well.

A really enjoyable read from an author I hope to read more from. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 2000-Present time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Post:
Derek B. Miller- American by Day | Raven Crime Reads