Europa Blues – Arne Dahl

This is the fourth book in the author’s Intercrime series, being the continuing cases, challenges, successes, and failures of a top level Swedish police unit of that name.

The novel has several strands, starting with the bizarre slaying of a foreign criminal by some wolverines. Then there’s the elderly, distinguished professor, Holocaust survivor, strung up and tortured to death at a Jewish cemetery. And let’s not forget the somewhat puzzling disappearance of a group of eight female refugees. Finally, there is the vigilante killing of a mugger. What’s going on?

First, continuing the trend from the earlier books, the author keeps developing his characters. They are going from strength to strength. In the same vein, the quality of writing, and the general way the whole package hangs together, is an improvement on the last book in the series, and that was no slouch.

Second, the story is very well put together, and the tension builds up, slowly but surely. Again, given the multiple strands, and the time given to several characters, this is deftly done. Very impressive. What I also noted were two features that, in other books by other writers, can be overpowering and irritating. Here, that’s not the case. Dahl’s observations on Swedish society of the 1990s are reasoned, and poignant. They may be part of the author’s message, but they are not a rant. Also, his quirky tendency to go off at a tangent, irrelevant to the plot, is kept in check, and does just enough to add a fine, believable, realistic sheen to his character portrayals.

There is one tiny clue (the smallest of details) in an early part of the proceedings that gave the whole game away to me. However, that did not spoil the enjoyment of reading the book. Further, I very much doubt if 99.9% of readers will spot it – not that I claim any superior intellect, but my particular mix of upbringing, culture, and interests, gave me the knowledge to spot the tell tale detail.

My only regret was reaching the end. It’s a terrific book, with a lot to say, and it says it well. In other words, as some reviewers would put it, although it’s a crime novel, it’s also more than that. Indeed. I would argue it’s a novel that skillfully records the time portrayed, and asks – directly and indirectly – some pertinent questions. There are sometimes no easy solutions. By way of a hopeful bonus for those of us who are fans of Mr Dahl, his work includes several great characters, and a wealth of potential for the future. I hope there are many more to come. Very highly recommended.

[My reviews of the other books are (1st) here, (2nd) here, and (3rd) here. Do read the books in the right order. That way, your reading pleasure will be much enhanced.]