The never-solved abduction of a 7-year-old boy 40 years ago is at the heart of this tale of murder and betrayal by well-regarded Swedish novelist Vallgren.
The unlikely protagonist is scuffling 44-year-old Danny Katz, whose genius with language and computers once made him a valuable young military asset, despite his fondness for heroin. When Joel Klingberg, an old classmate of his at the national interpreter academy, disappears, Joel's glamorous wife, Angela, asks Katz to find him. She says her husband—the younger brother of the long-missing boy—was looking into new information about the kidnapping. When Angela is brutally murdered and Katz is framed for the crime, he must go underground to avoid arrest and clear himself. That involves uncovering the deep, dark secrets of the wealthy Klingberg family—among them why Joel's parents chose to do themselves in in a suicide pact. The prosecutor on the case, as it turns out, is Eva, his first girlfriend, who, during an early drug-fueled misadventure, was found next to him beaten unconscious and, like Angela, bitten on the neck. With his chilly, foreboding style, Vallgren recalls other Scandinavian mystery writers. But as exemplified by the importance of Katz's Jewish background and other details, the book departs the mainstream so strongly defined by The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. A thriller with an offbeat, personal edge, this crime debut bodes well for future efforts in this genre by the author.
Vallgren, whose previous English-language release, The Merman (2015), is an exercise in magic realism, makes a strong entry into crime fiction.