This was a lot of fun. A good story well-told. It’s also the first in a series so I’ll be back for more as soon as it’s available.
So what made it such good fun?
Firstly, the storytelling style manages to recreate the same sort of dynamic that kept me binge-watching series like ‘The Bridge’ or ‘The Killing’ without feeling like a sparsely written film script in waiting. Hans Rosenfeldt used some clever techniques to achieve this. He told the story from multiple points of view but he avoided the thriller convention of starting the chapter by telling you whose point of view you were in. He left you to work that out, which felt similar to me to the way in which a camera shows you an establishing shot of a building before you know who is looking at it. It kept me on my toes and ticked up the tension a little. He also used the town itself as one of the points of view for telling the story. This enriched the story’s sense of place and allowed him to run chapters that flit quickly through brief looks at each of the main characters, much in the way that Scandi-noir TV series tend to give moody, dialogue-free, theme-music-rich shots of characters before the end of an episode.
Secondly, the characters feel quite real. With a couple of notable exceptions, they are normal people. playing the hand that they’ve been dealt as best they can. The line between good guy and bad guy is often a little blurred. Most characters have flaws, some of which are why you end up caring about them. I was particularly pleased that the police officers aren’t stereotypes and do have a life outside of chasing down criminals.
The plot kept me guessing and successfully misled me a few times but without cheating or straining my suspension of disbelief. From the beginning, there’s a lot of violence and by the end, the body count in the small, quiet northern Sweden border town is astonishingly high and yet completely believable.
The bad guys in this were the most ‘out there’ elements of the story but they made everything more interesting. There’s a high-functioning sociopathic drug dealer who is spooky because he operates in very unexpected ways and a female assassin who makes Jason Bourne look like an under-achiever.
If you’re a Scandi-Noir fan, don’t miss this one. If you’re just Scandi-noir curious, this book is a great place to start.