Setting: Stockholm, Sweden, in advance of the Olympic games.
Story: There’s a bomber on the loose. The first strike is at the Olympic Stadium, killing one person. Annika Bengtzon, crimedesk head at a local paper, is on the scene early and leads the charge to report the latest about the incident. She has to struggle with a home/work balance challenge (she’s got a husband and 2 young kids), disruptive employees, a reluctant police source, and self doubt about her ability. Then there’s a second bombing… Bengtzon keeps working to get to the bottom of the story.
Good Stuff: Annika’s home/work balance is well crafted and rings true to life. Some of the supporting characters – her husband and Anders Schyman – the publisher – are well rounded, and offer different perspectives on Annika’s experiences. The editorial meetings and office politics come across as authentic. The mystery – who is the Bomber? – starts off promisingly, and the plot is well constructed and delivered with good effect.
Not So Good Stuff: It was way too easy to guess the Bomber’s identity. As the BIG CLUE hits the reader about three quarters of the way through the book, it’s no disaster, but seems clumsy and unnecessary. The Bomber’s first victim was a fascinating character. However (a) the gradual disclosure of the story behind the character was uneven; and (b) I felt there was more to come. Lastly, I found it difficult to suspend disbelief completely about the in depth investigation of the crimes and the leading role of the newspaper.
Bitter experience had taught her that the journalists with the noblest and loftiest principles were often real bastards.
It’s not a bad book, but when Henning Mankell is quoted as saying: “Liza Marklund is in a league of her own”, it’s not the Premiership he is talking about.