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Stefan Bruun, Fällan i Brunnsparken (Mantrap in Brunnsparken)

Schildts förlag,  2005. ISBN: 9515015081

Reviewed by Martin Murrell in SBR 2006:2

A prolific writer, journalist and broadcaster, Staffan Bruun is widely considered to be the leading FinlandSwedish crime writer of his generation. Fällan i Brunnsparken, his eighth crime novel, appeared in August 2005. However, while the previous seven mysteries had the hard-drinking freelance journalist Burt Kobbat as protagonist, his latest work is a firstperson narrative that features a very different character – Antonio Sallinen, the teetotal, half-Italian collector of Italian picture-postcards, businessman and director of human resources at an advertising agency. Sallinen becomes a sleuth despite himself and is so successful that when the police discover what he is up to, knowing he is unlikely to be the villain of the piece himself, they let him get on with it! Sallinen’s beautiful, flirtatious, fashionconscious wife makes him the envy of every man who sees them together. She wants them to keep up with the best of the Svenssons, and what with his own clandestine (and expensive) extracurricular activities, into which he is forced by events, money and class play their parts too. On the day of his promotion his colleagues take him to a nightclub to celebrate, and he later passes out drunk in the company of a prostitute in his boss’s apartment in the exclusive district of Brunnsparken. Waking up early in the morning, remembering little of what happened the evening before, and, worst of all, finding the prostitute dead, he thinks only of trying to cover his tracks, but it is not until the following night that he can get back to the apartment to remove the body. Several days pass before he realizes that his only chance of extricating himself from his ghastly predicament lies in finding the killer himself. As in the tradition of the best whodunits, it is not until chapter 39, the penultimate, that the truth is revealed. Suffering from amnesia, suspecting he has been lured into a trap, sure that it won’t be long before he is arrested, certain that he will lose his wife if she discovers where he went and what he has been up to, under pressure from his boss to complete some difficult tasks, while trying to cover his tracks to avoid suspicion – this is enough to stretch and test anyone’s ingenuity and endurance. Sallinen walks a delicate knife-edge between ensuring that justice is done and not implicating himself. In his search for evidence, he inevitably embroils himself further, which leads to greater suspense and keeps the reader wondering till the end. As a whodunit, the novel is a tour de force. Still, there is a lot more than suspense in this novel. A number of the situations contain elements of humour, as, for example, in Sallinen’s attempt to dispose of a dead body without being seen.There is satire, too, in the proposals of a professor of management strategy, a member of the agency’s board, concerning the optimum age profile of a company’s staff. Ultimately, in the eyes of one such as Sallinen, this confirms the extent of the injustice and immorality in his firm. The Helsingfors locations in the novel are mostly real, but a reader unacquainted with the city will not be at a disadvantage. There is enough description to indicate distances and explain movement within the central area, as well as establishing key social differences among the outlying residential areas.These play an important role, but to say more would reveal too much.The plot centres round a number of serious crimes, such as blackmail and murder, as well as debauchery, prostitution and professional misconduct. In an interview about Fällan i Brunnsparken, Bruun said he wanted to write about “the worst thing that could happen to a mother-inlaw’s dream”, and in this he has succeeded admirably. The book is rich in the kind of naturalistic dialogue one has come to expect from the author: it moves the story along at a fast pace and makes the book difficult to put down. It will surely give rise to a screen adaptation, and the resulting film, one hopes, will be good enough to be shown far beyond the borders of its native shores.

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