Routine woman-in-periler (“the most successful book ever published in Sweden,” we’re told) pits an aggressive journalist against a mad bomber haunting Stockholm’s Olympic Village.
Nothing keeps Annika Bengtzon, workaholic crime editor for a scrappy tabloid, from a story. Though married to kindly Thomas, who heads an organization of labor unions, and the mother of two perfect children, Bengtzon rushes out to cover the vile and the violent on Stockholm’s mean streets. When a bomb blows out half of the Olympic stadium, Annika cleverly pumps her taxi driver for info and beats the competition in discovering that a taxi driver had been injured in the blast—an important clue, it turns out, when pieces of the bombing’s single victim are assembled and identified as Christina Furhage, the glamorous, high-profile head of Stockholm’s Olympic Committee. While some suspect the bomber is a terrorist, Bengtzon gets a tip that the stadium’s security alarms had been circumvented before the bomb went off. Not only could the bomber have been someone within the Olympic organization, but the explosion may have been a cover-up for Furhage’s murder. Bengtzon’s take on the story creates clashes with her colleagues, whose jealousies and petty rivalries are obviously intended to support first-novelist and reporter Marklund’s feminist subtext: no matter how far women rise in the various social hierarchies, the slights, snubs, and private passions they suffer always seem worse than those of men. After some nasty secrets in Furhage’s past come to light, the bomber strikes again, then kidnaps Bengtzon, wires her with explosives, and sits her down at a laptop so that (preposterous as it sounds) she will write the truth about the bomber’s life and motives.
A few pleasantly different Swedish details (e.g., you can buy Christmas glogg, a nonalcoholic mulled wine, from street vendors) in a competent page-turner that moves fast to a clumsy end.