Review copy provided by the publisher.
This is the English language debut of a Swedish bestseller. It reads like a bestseller, very short chapters and a lot of simple sentences. It also reads like it’s translated from Swedish, where I can see the ghosts of a couple of jokes that were impossible to translate and a few places where the translator chose to stick close to cognates in places where a more colloquial translation might have served them better. (“These were the sentiments of such men”: a cromulent English sentence, but not for a late 20th/early 21st century thriller.)
I hope that an Anglophone audience receives the Swedishness of the central conceit well, too. Because while it’s a thriller murder mystery, it’s also a book about the emotional confusion and angst many people–including those who didn’t support him politically–experienced in the aftermath of Olof Palme’s assassination. The psychological importance of this event, the sense that the world was falling to pieces, is in every page of this book, and I hope that that’s comprehensible to an Anglophone readership that may not be entirely clear on what happened to Olof Palme in the first place. (No, I know the Swedes are not clear either, but they know Christer Petterson from Krister Peterson in a dark alley.)
So. There are two generations of police, father and son, but not working together, on a single set of murder cases. They’re also each trying to figure out their place in the world, their relationship with their child, whether this is all there is. Some mysteries are tagged as “competence porn.” This is almost the opposite, very nearly incompetence porn. Bewilderment literature. There is illness, struggle, wrong turnings that never do get righted. It is almost disorienting to be in thriller-type prose but deep in the headspace of people having thoroughly literary crises. It’s a very weird book, and I don’t really have an “ultimately satisfying” or “ultimately unsatisfying” verdict, it just…goes hard at what it is. I suppose we should all hope for as much to be said of us.