Stockholm, 1975: Six young people take the entire staff of the West German embassy hostage. The long siege ends with the deaths of two hostages and the wounding of several others. Jump to 1989: When a Swedish civil servant is murdered, the two leading detectives on the case find their investigation hastily shelved by a corrupt senior investigator. Ten years later: Lars Johansson, having just joined the Swedish Security Police, decides to tie up a few loose ends left behind by his predecessor: specifically, two files on Swedes who had allegedly collaborated on the 1975 takeover of the West German embassy, one of whom turned out to be the murder victim in 1989. Johansson reopens the investigation and follows the leads--right up to the doorstep of Sweden's newly minted minister of justice.
Well after a month’s break from this author having oscillated between enjoyed/endured/enjoyed/endured for Between Summer's Longing And Winter's End, I saddled up on got back on the horse for another trip in Persson’s company this time around. Thankfully it was somewhat shorter than our last stamina test at just under 480 pages long.
Persson again blends fact and fiction into his novel, reminding me of James Ellroy in regards to grabbing hold of a seismic event in recent Swedish history and constructing a fictional narrative around it.
We start with the occupation of the German Embassy in Stockholm which ends violently with an explosion after the deaths of a couple of the hostages. Several of Persson’s recurring police characters are present at the events in 1975, mainly Jarnebring; best friend of Lars Martin Johannson.
We fast forward to 1989 where Jarnebring discovers the death of Kjell Eriksson after responding to an emergency call from a neighbour. The investigation into his murder is led by the corrupt, homophobic Backstrom and very quickly descends into farce with Backstrom’s insistence that the crime is because of Eriksson’s obvious homosexuality, consequentially routing the investigation down a blind alley. Jarnebring, aided by the capable Anna Holt pursue other more probable avenues of enquiry but eventually the case is shelved unsolved. Eriksson; a nasty, controlling, unloved, unmourned, friendless victim is apparently forgotten.
We jump forward another 11 years to the year 2000, and the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Johansson, head of the internal Swedish Security Police is asked to sign off on the prospective appointment of Helena Stein to the higher level of the Swedish government. When the checks uncover a link between Stein and Eriksson and the German Embassy seizure, Detective Holt gets the opportunity to re-open the investigation into Eriksson’s murder; this time without Backstrom’s interference.
Overall, I enjoyed this slightly more than the first book in loose “The Story of a Crime” trilogy. Persson expertly knits together a narrative that had me constantly marvelling at the skilful way in which he layers detail into his plot. It was an interesting and educational read, as I learned something more about Sweden’s recent history. Persson’s policemen and women are always entertaining and readable, even the abhorrent ones – Mr Backstrom!
Whilst the minutia last time was a wee bit excessive, I didn’t experience the same frustrations this time around. Being shorter than the first book by approximately 200 pages definitely helped. Slightly less challenging than last time, but well worth the time invested in it.
I’m looking forward to the next book of his – Linda, As In The Linda Murder, though I will probably take another month off before tackling it.
4 stars from 5.
I borrowed my copy from my local library.