More Scandinavian murder mayhem from Swedish novelist/criminologist Persson (The Dying Detective, 2017, etc.).
Evert Bäckström lacks the noble mien of Hercule Poirot and the rough chivalry of Philip Marlowe; he’s a worldly schlub of large appetites and strong opinions (“carrots and oatbran were almost certainly one contributing fact to why his malnourished and cretinous colleagues fucked up with such depressing regularity”) who doesn’t lack for prejudices and the ugly language to accompany them. Still, he’s been at the detective game for a long time, and even if he likes to hide out in his office with the door closed and a do-not-disturb light, he’s actually reasonably good at his job, less briskly efficient than his right-hand man (“who, naturally, was a woman”), but still game to “wield the sword of justice” come Monday morning each week. As the narrative progresses, one week’s comparatively mild body count is headed by the murder of an arty aristocrat, illustrating that he who lives by the auction catalog dies by the auction catalog. But that murder has bearing on another, this one of a lawyer with connections to organized crime and the drug trade—and, not coincidentally, to a plot to do away with Bäckström. There’s a Maltese falcon in the equation, too, in the form of a music box that has been wandering from living room to living room ever since it slipped out of the possession of “that fat bloke who was always smoking a cigar”—that is, Winston Churchill. Getting to the facts of the matter takes plenty of time, and Persson seems in no hurry to arrive at a conclusion, which, one assumes, is a reflection of the business-as-usual slow unfolding of criminal investigations, particularly ones as tangled as this, in which one bit of bad behavior leads to another.
His detective isn’t the most pleasant of company, but Persson’s wry commentaries on contemporary Swedish life make for pleasing entertainment.