Stark whodunit with a sharp political edge, examining the 1986 assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme of Sweden.
Though the equivalent, in Swedish memory, of the assassination of JFK, Palme’s killing has served mostly as backdrop in that country’s superbly well-developed mystery fiction milieu. Persson (Another Time, Another Life, 2012, etc.), a criminologist in real life, places the killing at the forefront of this latest story, in which a CSI type named Lars Martin Johansson (familiar from other of Persson’s procedurals) moves to center stage as, years after the fact, he opens the cold file. “I’m only the head of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, but I’m also an orderly person and extremely allergic to unsolved cases.” Surrounded by a body of flatfoot cops and smart investigators, he finds his orderly tendencies thwarted by extremely messy trails of evidence, from subtly conflicting testimonies (“the perpetrator had...‘half run,’ ‘trotted,’ ‘lumbered,’ or ‘jogged’ down Tunnelgatan in the direction of the stairs up to Malmskillnadsgatan”) to leads that bring in a bewildering range of conspiratorial actors (one of them with a quite unmentionable name). Persson’s tale is too long by a quarter, with plenty of longueurs that seem to put the case in real time, but it has plenty of virtues, not least in showing how police work is actually done and in how quirky interpersonal dynamics can affect every detail of a crime investigation. To say nothing of calling the whole lone gunman scenario into question.
“It’s a small country,” Johansson grumbles. “Much too small.” Yet there’s plenty of room for mayhem. A worthy addition to the vast Swedish library devoted to such unpleasant things.