Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, January 2015
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.
Bäckström is a despicable, crooked cop who is racist, sexist, homophobic, and more. While the story begins and centers him, there are definitely moments of relief from his mindset. He begins the story after being transferred to a new police district and being given sobering news by the police doctor: he’s in danger of dying soon from his excessive drinking and eating. The chastened Bäckström investigates what appears to be a straightforward murder of a drunken retired accountant, but soon the investigation uncovers that things are not what they seem.
I appreciated the focus on the investigation and on the many layers of hierarchy in various Swedish police forces: too much focus on the evil killer gets old for me. What also stood out was the circling back in time to see crucial events in the storyline from different characters’ perspectives. There’s also plenty of black humor in the story: Bäckström himself is quite ridiculous, and the jokes about corruption and police bureaucracy are quite pointed.
Only the Story of a Crime trilogy and this book have been published in the US, and I’ve read just one previous Persson book, Free Falling, As in a Dream, so I’m not the foremost expert. This edition coincides with the television show, but what from what I’ve read, the show differs quite a bit from the books: Bäckström is not entirely unredeemable, and the plots are not just adaptations of the books. I think I’ll stick with the pricklier books. While I’m fairly new to the series, the characters keep appearing in Persson’s books, which take a very methodical approach/ procedural approach to solving the murder that begins the book. The procedure slows down the book a bit, but all in all it’s a quick read.