After a Swedish army lieutenant is shot dead on a shooting range in Djibouti, security agent Ernst Grip is sent to the African nation to investigate what some fear was an act of terrorism.
Grip, who works mainly as a bodyguard, isn't a standard choice for the job. But he quickly establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with after determining that the shooting was not a terrorist act and that the Djiboutian being held by local authorities for the killing was not responsible for it. When a Swedish officer advises Grip to "Let it go," that only motivates the security agent more, leading him into a thicket of secrets, lies, and international conflict. And if that weren't enough, a wealthy Swedish couple and their two children are being held by pirates who commandeered their sailboat as it sailed past the Horn of Africa, heading to the Great Barrier Reef. The pirates' businesslike leader, Darwiish, has demanded $10 million in ransom. Karjel (The Swede, 2015), a former member of the Swedish Air Force who trained with the U.S. Marines, has a muscular prose style layered with sensitivity: Grip is mourning the death in New York of his longtime male partner from AIDS. The book never attains the Robert Stone–like moral complexity it aims for. But Karjel skillfully handles the twin narratives, which at first run parallel and then circle each other, and maintains a quiet intensity throughout.
Karjel's second novel to be translated into English is a solid, dependable work that makes us believe in its characters and situations; the author brings firsthand knowledge to his unusual story of Swedes in Africa.