Saturday, 1 June 2013

LEIF G.W. PERSSON - ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER LIFE


Synopsis/blurb......

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.



 

8 comments:

  1. Col - Good to hear you enjoyed this one. There's something about a detective who isn't the traditional 'nice guy that everyone likes' but at the same time isn't beset with the stereotypical personal demons.

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    1. Margot, Persson's police characters are definitely interesting, even the decent ones. The dysfunctional are probably more fun though!

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  2. Nice review Col. I absolutely loved 'Linda' so I can't wait until I hear what you think of it!

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    1. Thanks Sarah, maybe I won't skip the month and I'll get to it in June. I think it was your Linda review that got me into Persson, so thanks once more.

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  3. I think I'm with you, Col, on labeling books enjoyed/endured/enjoyed. I bought this one and plan to read it when I'm at a point to endure/enjoy it. Thanks for the excellent review.

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    1. Keishon, the yo-yo effect was less this time than with the first. I look forward to your review once you've taken the plunge.

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  4. Col, I was glad to see this review because I was at the bookstore today looking at this book and Between Summers Longing... Since you gave both a four out of five, I will get them when I have a chance. I don't like longer books, so it will be difficult getting through the first one, but I want to read all three. And your description of "enjoyed/endured/enjoyed/endured" is a state I am familiar with. I read one book that was 800 pages and I ended up liking it a lot but a good deal of it was endured.

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    1. Tracy, I would give him a go if you have time, as it is worth the effort. 800 pages sounds a bit daunting, was it recently? I think I'm enjoying my Pronzini, Max Allan Collins series books.....less than 200 pages, in, out and bang, works well for me.

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