Pen 33 – Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström

First of a series featuring policeman Ewert Grens, this is a no holds barred, graphic, and troubling novel.

At the core, it’s about a pedophile who preys on young girls. Not much is left to the imagination. But the police involvement is only one angle – albeit the main one – as the revenge attempt by the father of one of the victims takes center stage for a fair chunk of the novel.

Set in Sweden, the book does a good job of painting the scene, and making the backdrop believable. Some of the prison scenes, and the politics of it, came across as all too realistic and horrific. The judicial process seems less well rounded. The level of characterization varies, but on the whole is good.

There are times when I think you can see the joins in the book – where the fact it is the work of two authors has had an effect – because there are small unfinished aspects of scenes, and the direction of the story is a bit jerky. However, it’s also possible I am imagining this, and instead what we have is the chaos of real life rendered as fiction.

The plot, such as it is, works well enough, but it is relatively simple and the only major twist is not that much of a surprise. If you cannot see what’s coming, you surely don’t read much crime fiction. On the other hand, the overall story is interesting and did have me thinking about some of the issues after I finished it.

I’m glad I read it, though am not fully convinced. I will probably read the next one to see if it improves, because with the rough edges ironed out, this would have been an excellent book. One for the reserve list.

Incidentally, none of the roughness should be put down to the translator – Elizabeth Clark Wessel – because from that perspective the language was spot on.

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