Friday, January 28, 2011

Box 21 by Roslund and Hellstrom

For those that could not get enough of Stieg Larsson's trilogy (see my note below), Roslund and Hellstrom are billed as the next Swedish phenomenon.  Their newest book, 3 Seconds, is being heavily promoted as the next of kin to Larsson.  The critics, readers and collectors have received the book well.  It is atop my nightstand stack.

Larsson is the best known of the Scandinavian crime novelists but there are other prominent ones, such as Henning Mankell, the creator of Wallander. Wallander is featured in several novels and is also the name of a PBS Mystery series, which is a must for any mystery fan.  The Scandinavian genre is characterized by sex crimes, human trafficking, violence against women, corruption and social critiques. The genre leaders write fast paced and exciting thrillers.

I started with their first novel, Box 21, to meet the characters and see what the series is about.  Roslund and Hellstrom fit the genre well and the acclaim for their work is fitting. What makes this particular novel work is the authors' backgrounds: Roslund is a journalist and Hellstrom is an ex-criminal.

Box 21 is the story of a veteran detective, Ewert Grens, who is haunted by an accident that occurred 25 years ago that left his wife an invalid.  When Grens arrives at a crime scene, he finds a teenage prostitute (sex slave) nearly beaten to death and another woman who is mentally shattered.  The girls were lured to Sweden and forced into the work as under false pretense and sold as sex slaves.  The novel moves rapidly in action packed bursts between the investigation related to the teenage girls, the reappearance of the criminal responsible for injuring Grens' wife and a new crime scene.

For US readers, the references to Swedish pop culture likely will be missed or not understood.  There are few of them and they will not detract from the story.

Recommendation: Anyone who enjoyed Stieg Larsson will enjoy the works these authors are turning out.  They are exciting, intelligent reads.  The energy they generate will keep you flipping pages.

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