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Livet deluxe Jens Lapidus, Livet deluxe (Life de Luxe)

Wahlström & Widstrand,  2011. ISBN: 9789146220299

Reviewed by Marie Allen in SBR 2011:2

This is the final book in Jens Lapidus’s gangster crime trilogy, following Snabba cash (Easy Money) and Aldrig fucka up (Never Fuck Up). However, it is not necessary to have read the other two before this one, as the plot and the characters are easy to follow and engaging enough. The same cannot be said for the ultra-streetwise and hyperhip language, which has more jargon and colloquialisms than punctuation marks. You need to be a walking glossary in Stockholm underworld slang to fully understand what he is on about. Equally, you need to be well versed in Stockholm life, culture, class, fashion and places. And the constant references to films and books – including Lapidus’s own – are both obscure and irritating. Having said that, the range of characters, with their varying intellectual and emotional capacities, relationships and backgrounds, add up to an intricately woven narrative with enough elements of solid credibility that make you want to discover their destiny, whether you understand the lingo or care for their sexual, irrational or violent behaviours. Jorge is a small-time Latino gangster, with many nicknames, such as ‘the Escapist’, who since his last stay in prison runs a small, semi-legal café with his homie Mahmud, but is always waiting for the ‘recipe’ for the perfect heist. JW, a northerner in awe of all things classy and aristocratic, is Lapidus’s dubious hero from Easy Money, now fresh out of prison and into large scale financial crime rather than peddling drugs. The closet gay, upper-class detective inspector Martin Häggström has been assigned to go undercover to break up the gangster mafia that rules Stockholm. Struggling to come to terms with losing custody of his young adoptive son, while tapdancing between contrasting worlds, he does not realise how deep undercover he will actually end up. As for beautiful, young and trendy Natalie, the intelligent daughter of the Yugoslavian gangster king, her comfortable, carefree existence is suddenly turned upside-down and she has to transform herself from spoilt princess into mafia queen. The plot which links these people pivots around the perfect heist, the control of the Stockholm underworld and money laundering. It spans sleazy pubs and gambling dens, luxury hotels, VIP bars and casinos. It comprises political and social elements, violence, sexual and class issues. In fact, class and ethnicity are key components in this elaborate and detailed story, summarised in the very title – no one wants a bogstandard existence like your average ‘Svenne’ with his ordinary little working life, dull summer cottage and holidays in Majorca; everyone aspires to Life de Luxe. Jens Lapidus is in his late 30s, a fulltime criminal lawyer and family man with a solid middle-class background, who has written and released four books in five years. His debut Easy Money sold 700 000 copies in Sweden, is the most popular book in prison libraries and has been turned into a blockbuster movie. Easy Money 2 will be filmed in 2012. He describes himself as an ‘ethnological chameleon’ with a keen interest in subcultures and the behaviours and social rules of different environments. Not one for relaxing, he can write anytime, anywhere, even just two pages while waiting for the train. The quote below sums up gangster mind at the centre of this, the latest Lapidus crime creation: There were no straight roads. No wide roads. No life de luxe. Everything was a lie. Everything sucked big time. Everyone screwed him over and over again. He looked out: the wind was blowing in the trees A STORM was blowing in his head.

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