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Den vidunderliga utsikten
(The Amazing View)
Prisma, 2002. ISBN: 9151841142
Reviewed by Irene Scobbie in SBR 2004:2
This fast-moving spy thriller opens with a series of mighty explosions at a NATO top meeting in Amsterdam, and then retrospectively follows events leading up to the carnage. At the centre of the action is Klara Andersson, a Swede who has lived many years in Spain, where she worked as an interpreter and a TV producer. When her husband leaves her for a younger woman she returns to Sweden where she works for a Stockholm-based TV company. When preparing a programme on security organizations she is horrified to discover that she is on Mossad’s database as Fatima, a Hizbollah agent. By coincidence, when asked to interpret at Karlskrona shipyards she is shown the navy’s YS 2000 stealth vessel.
In 1974 Klara interpreted for an American TV company in Madrid and met Luis Hornett, who offered a retainer for reports on Spain under Franco’s rule. He also arranged an abortion in a private clinic in Madrid when she believed she was bearing his child. While there she had plastic surgery on her nose. She is furious to discover that Hornett is a CIA agent and that by submitting reports on Spain to Hornett she has been unwittingly dragged into the world of espionage.
In 2001 Fahrid, a ruthless, sadistic Iraqi spy is sent to Sweden for information on the YS 2000 project. He believes Klara is Fatima and is determined to force her to help him. Hornett admits that the CIA is responsible for her being wanted by Mossad. They now want her as a decoy to catch Fahrid, and in return will have her name removed from Mossad’s database. Events move swiftly up to the fatal explosion when Klara is slightly hurt but manages to escape.
Maria Gustafsson keeps the plot moving and builds up tension. She knows intimately the international settings against which she places her characters, and moves effortlessly from Spain to Sweden, New York, Brussels and Amsterdam. Her personal experience as both TV producer and interpreter gives her description of studios, international conferences, EU Parliament and Swedish government offices an authentic ring.
Her second novel, a kind of “what Klara did next” covers as much ground geographically, but Klara is now more introspective. She has a guilty conscience, having killed a man (admittedly in self-defence), and Mossad is still pursuing her. She even has the CIA and Swedish intelligence services after her, for they suspect her of involvement in the NATO explosion. Too distraught to think clearly, she flees to Spain, takes to heavy drinking, is robbed and almost raped and wakes up in hospital. A shady lawyer gets her to Colombia where she enters a private clinic. She is helped by Dr Guzmán, a charitable psychiatrist, but is recognised by Pratsky, an opportunist, and receives mysterious veiled threats. Pratsky arranges for her to work for a Russian oil firm trying to establish itself in Colombia. She finds that part of her job is to understand the political situation (where drug barons, guerrillas, and paramilitary forces are all active), and to establish contact with venal, influential people. By chance she meets an old acquaintance Milan Koci, an idealistic architect working with the WHO in Colombia. Through him she becomes embroiled in a rogue American firm dealing in pesticides, pretenders to the Colombian presidency and the visit of a high-level American team including Condoleezza Rice. The plot is less structured than in the first novel, but there is no lack of action, and as before it is obvious that the author is setting her characters against locations she knows well. Maria Gustafsson has a fairly racy style and is not afraid of “adult” scenes, including successful love-making, a brutal rape, and a sadistic terrorist who enjoys inflicting pain. Her heroine is initially slightly naïve but tough. She is slightly ambivalent, for though she tells Hornett that she wants her life back she also craves adventure. She is interested in food and wine and clothes, is physically attractive, sensuous, and although not exactly promiscuous is certainly sexually emancipated. She is feminine, but loves driving fast cars, takes lessons in the martial arts after being raped and is prepared to use lethal weapons if she has to – even if it does bring on a mental breakdown afterwards. Not exactly a female counterpart to James Bond, but certainly more nuanced.
Other reviews by Irene Scobbie
- Carola Hansson, Masja (Masha). Reviewed in SBR 2016:1.
- Elisabeth Rynell, Om skrivandets sinne (The Sensibility of Writing). Reviewed in SBR 2015:2.
- Peter Sandström, Till dig som saknas (To You Who are Missed). Reviewed in SBR 2013:S.
- Maria Lang, Farligt att förtära (Harmful if Eaten). Reviewed in SBR 2013:2.
- Maria Lang, Inte flera mord! (No More Murders!). Reviewed in SBR 2013:2.
- Maria Lang, Mördaren ljuger inte ensam (The Murderer Doesn't Lie Alone). Reviewed in SBR 2013:2.
- Ann-Marie Åsheden, Förbannelsen. Hans Holmérs öde (The Curse. Hans Holmér’s Fate). Reviewed in SBR 2013:1.
- Torsten Pettersson, Göm mig i ditt hjärta (Conceal Me in Your Heart). Reviewed in SBR 2011:1.
- Torsten Pettersson, Ge mig dina ögon (Give Me Your Eyes). Reviewed in SBR 2011:1.
- Elisabeth Rynell, Hitta hem (Finding the Way Home). Reviewed in SBR 2010:1.
- Åke Edwardson, Den sista vintern (The Final Winter). Reviewed in SBR 2009:1.
- P.C. Jersild, Medicinska memoarer (Medical Memories). Reviewed in SBR 2007:2.
- Åsa Larsson, Svart stig (The Black Path). Reviewed in SBR 2007:1.
- Sara Stridsberg, Drömfakulteten (The Dream Faculty). Reviewed in SBR 2006:2.
- Per Svensson, Han som aldrig fick bli kung. Berättelsen om Carl XVI Gustafs pappa (He Who Could Never Be King. The Story of Carl XVI's Father). Reviewed in SBR 2006:2.
- Carola Hansson, Mästarens Dröm (The Master's Dream). Reviewed in SBR 2006:1.
- Åke Edwardson, Rum nummer 10 (Room No. 10). Reviewed in SBR 2006:1.
- Kjell Eriksson, Nattens grymma stjärnor (Night's Cruel Stars). Reviewed in SBR 2005:1.
- Åsa Larsson, Det blod som spillts (The Blood That Was Shed). Reviewed in SBR 2004:2.
- Åsa Larsson, Solstorm (Sunstorm). Reviewed in SBR 2003:2.
- Elin Wägner, Stockholm Stories. Reviewed in SBR 2003:2.
- Åke Edwardson, Segel av sten (Sails of Stone). Reviewed in SBR 2003:1.
- Elisabeth Rynell, Till Mervas (To Mervas). Reviewed in SBR 2003:1.
- Eva Mattson, Tala efter pipet (Speak after the Tone). Reviewed in SBR 2002:2.
- Jan Guillou, Arvet efter Arn (Arns Heritage). Reviewed in SBR 2002:1.
- Maja Lundgren, Pompeji (Pompeii). Reviewed in SBR 2001:2.
- Carola Hansson, Den älskvärde (A Complaisant Man). Reviewed in SBR 2001:1.
- Jan Guillou, Riket vid vägens slut (The Kingdom at the End of the Road). Reviewed in SBR 2000:2.
- Stewe Claeson, Stämma i havet (Voice in the Sea). Reviewed in SBR 2000:1.
- George C Schoolfield, A History of Finland's Literature. Reviewed in SBR 1999:2.
- Anders Sundelin, Fallet Wennerström (The Wennerström Case). Reviewed in SBR 1999:2.
- Kerstin Ekman, Häxringarna (Witches' Rings). Reviewed in SBR 1999:2.
- Inger Frimansson, Mannen med oxhjärtet (The Man with the Enlarged Heart). Reviewed in SBR 1999:2.
- Jan Guillou, Tempelriddaren (The Knight Templar). Reviewed in SBR 1999:2.
- Elisabet Larsson, Intrång (Intrusion). Reviewed in SBR 1999:1.
- Jan Guillou, Vägen till Jerusalem (The Path to Jerusalem). Reviewed in SBR 1999:1.
- Malin Lindroth, Vaka natt (Nightwatch). Reviewed in SBR 1999:1.
- Åke Edwardson, Rop från långt avstånd (Far Distant Cries). Reviewed in SBR 1998:2.
- Elisabeth Rynell, Hohaj. Reviewed in SBR 1998:1.
- Kjell Johansson, Huset vid Flon (The House beside Flon). Reviewed in SBR 1998:1.
- Åke Edwardson, Dans med en ängel (Dancing with an Angel). Reviewed in SBR 1997:2.
- Carl-Henning Wijkmark, Du som ej finns (You Who Do Not Exist). Reviewed in SBR 1997:2.
- Stefan Andhé, En vind genom gräset (A Breeze through the Grass). Reviewed in SBR 1997:2.
- Magnus Florin, Marianne Steinsaphir and Margareta Sörenson, Literature in Sweden. Reviewed in SBR 1997:2.
- Ingmar Bergman, Enskilda samtal (Private Conversations). Reviewed in SBR 1997:1.
- Göran Tunström, Juloratoriet (The Christmas Oratory). Reviewed in SBR 1997:1.
- G Anderman and C Banér (eds), Proceedings of the Tenth Biennial Conference of the British Association of Scandinavian Studies. Reviewed in SBR 1997:1.
- Helena Forsås-Scott, Swedish Women's Writing 1850-1995. Reviewed in SBR 1997:1.
- Wilhelm Wachtmeister, Som jag såg det. Händelser och människor på världscenen (As I Saw It. People and Events on the World Stage). Reviewed in SBR 1996:2.
- Sten Andersson, Aktörerna (The Actors). Reviewed in SBR 1996:1.
- Hans Holmér, Blindträff (Blind Date or Blind Hit). Reviewed in SBR 1996:1.
- Leif Silbersky and Olov Svedelid, Den stora tystnaden (The Great Silence). Reviewed in SBR 1996:1.
- N Bodell, L Kasvi & B Lidén, Estonia. Berättelsen om en tragedi (The "Estonia". The Story of a Tragedy). Reviewed in SBR 1996:1.
- Frederika Bremer, Familjen H*** (The Colonel's Family). Reviewed in SBR 1996:1.
- Jean Bolinder, Fjärilseffekten (The Butterfly Effect). Reviewed in SBR 1996:1.
- Pernilla Glaser, Robson. Reviewed in SBR 1995:2.
Other reviews in SBR 2004:2
- Judith Black and Jim Potts (eds.), Swedish Reflections. From Beowulf to Bergman.. Reviewed by Karin Petherick.
- Ulf Danielsson, Stjärnor och äppelen som faller: en bok om upptäcker och märkvärdigheter i universum (Stars and Falling Apples: a book of discoveries and remarkable facts about the Universe). Reviewed by Peter Hogg.
- Alexander Deriev (ed.), Ars-Interpres. An Internation Annual Journal of Poetry, Translation & Art, No.1. Reviewed by Ardis Grosjean Dreisbach.
- Inger Edelfeldt, Efter angelus (After Angelus). Reviewed by Sarah Death.
- Peter Englund, Tystnadens historia och andra essäer (A History of Silence and Other Essays). Reviewed by Henning Koch.
- Lars Magnar Enoksen, Vikingarnas stridskonst (The Fighting Art of the Vikings). Reviewed by Henning Koch.
- Ninni Holmqvist, Biroller (Supporting Roles). Reviewed by Martin Murrell.
- Åsa Larsson, Det blod som spillts (The Blood That Was Shed). Reviewed by Irene Scobbie.
- Katarina Mazetti, Tarzans tårar (Tarzan's Tears). Reviewed by Sarah Death.
- Lotta Olsson, Den mörka stigen (The Dismal Path). Reviewed by Anne Born.
- Anders Paulrud, Ett ögonblicks verk (In the Twinkling of an Eye). Reviewed by Tuva Tod.
- Gunilla Linn Persson, Vännen (The Friend). Reviewed by Marie Allen.
- Marie Peterson, Du tror du vet allting (You Think You Know It All). Reviewed by Sarah Death.
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