Lind & Co, 2015.
Reviewed by Ian Giles in SBR 2015:2
Review Section: Fiction - Adult
The thriller lives! Förrädare, the English- language rights to which are being marketed under the title of Traitors, is the debut novel of experienced screenwriting partners Jimmy Lindgren and Peter Lindmark. The protagonist is ex-Säpo agent Nicholas Warg, relieved of his security service duties in the mid- noughties following a scandal involving money transfers for Somali refugees in Sweden. Rather than face justice, he absconds from Sweden, taking work abroad as a security contractor wherever he can find it. The reader is led to believe that when it comes to fighting, intelligence and subterfuge, Warg has no equal. The opening of the novel finds him in Iraq, working for the ubiquitous, now-defunct Blackwater with a mysterious and somewhat suspect Russian, who later turns out to be a Chechen separatist.
The characterisation feels rather two-dimensional at times, with even Warg coming across – at least professionally – as a little too ‘perfect’. His old flame/love interest simultaneously fills the roles of hysterical woman and nuisance journalist, while their child is a useful plot device but remains unsatisfying as a character, largely because he is depicted in an inconsistent way. Some inconsistencies are to be expected in a debut, especially as the authors have already announced they are working on a sequel that will undoubtedly allow further character development.
That being said, the author duo succeed, in what is a fairly punchy book (coming in at under 400 pages), in providing a number of decent secondary characters and particularly enjoyable villains. The violence may at times be gratuitous, but the story – revolving around a plot to assassinate the Russian foreign minister in Stockholm – is a rip-roaring page turner, with bite-size chapters that encourage you to read ‘just one more’.
Lindgren and Lindmark are particularly successful in evoking a sense of place.The novel is set in and around Stockholm, as well as in Iraq, Argentina and Poland. Early on, Warg retreats to a small Argentinean seaside resort for major medical treatment from a physician who accepts cash and asks no questions. The descriptions of the setting are excellent, transporting the reader straight to a balmy summer’s day in South America. Similarly, the action in Sweden is firmly anchored in its location – readers familiar with Stockholm and its surroundings will enjoy following the events unfolding on streets and in parks they know well. Any UK publisher would be well advised to include a good map to allow the uninitiated to follow the action street by street.
The authors’ approach is almost certainly a result of their background in film (it is rumoured that Swedish television rights have already been snapped up). However, it is satisfying to note that with Nicholas Warg, a man addicted to cortisone injections and with many other personal flaws, whose story is set in a well-developed milieu, Lindgren and Lindmark are following firmly in the footsteps of Swedish crime writing royalty like Trenter and Sjöwall/Wahlöö.
Agnes Broomé told the Nordic Research Network conference earlier this year that the Scandinavian crime novel had ‘crested’, with agents, publishers, authors desperately looking for the next big genre. However, the amount of chatter surrounding books like Förrädare at events such as the London Book Fair, combined with this novel’s genuinely gripping qualities, demonstrate that while the heyday of Nordic crime fiction may have passed, the thriller lives on in a most convincing fashion.