FTC Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss.
Bad Blood does not have a single main character, instead it focuses on the members of the A-Unit, whose mission is to deal with “violent crimes of an international character,” and in this particular investigation, they pursue an American serial killer who comes to Sweden. He is named the Kentucky Killer, and he’s eluded the FBI for over 20 years. It is the A-Unit’s first case in the year since the case at the center of Misterioso.
While the action is brisk in the opening set pieces, the first half of the book is slow as Dahl catches up with all of the characters of the A-Unit. While you could start here in the series, it would make more sense to start at the beginning with Misterioso if only to catch up on the characters and the formation of the A-Unit. Interestingly, Dahl wrote this book before Misterioso even though it’s the second one, chronologically. The pace of the first half is also slow because the investigation is time-consuming.
My favorite scenes in the book were the group meetings: it’s a bit of a Socratic dialogue between Hultin and his team, and it’s interesting dialogue, even if the theories they spin out seem a bit far-fetched. I’m not enamored of serial killers and their psychology, so the plot was not my favorite. Even with the cross-cultural twist of an American serial killer in Sweden, I’m not in love with serial killer plots.
Finally, a couple things that bothered me as an American reader: (1) Kentucky Killer is a pretty lame name for a serial killer, but maybe the name was fresher when this book was originally written, and (2) the New York section of the book was a bit odd (Hjelm and Holm accompany their FBI counterpart on a drug raid in Harlem, with lots of sociological/political commentary).
I really enjoyed Misterioso but was a bit disappointed by Bad Blood. Though I’ve sworn off serial killer novels at several times in my life, it’s not the serial killer aspect of the story that disappointed me. I think I was expecting something as crisp and new as Misterioso, and small things about Bad Blood turned me off, starting with the very graphic opening section.