Saturday, September 17, 2011

Three Seconds

Three Seconds
Authors: Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström
Translated from Swedish by Kari Dickson
Quercus, 2011
683 pages

What happens when an ex-journalist and an ex-con hook up to write fiction? In the case of Sweden's Roslund & Hellström, the result is an international bestselling, award-winning crime novel. Three Seconds won the 2011 CWA International Dagger Award in July, but it's been on my list of books to read for several months. I kept waiting for it to be available on the Kindle. I waited. And waited. I'm still waiting, for it still isn't.

In the meantime, I ordered the paperback version from Amazon UK, even though that was more expensive than getting the hardback here in the USA . You see, I don't like hardbacks. I've noticed that many books come out in paperback months earlier in Europe than they do over here, which I find very annoying. But this review isn't supposed to be about my views of the publishing industry's marketing practices. Moving right along.

Despite my exuberance over reading Three Seconds, the truth is, I wasn't immediately drawn in. I plodded through the first 150 pages or so, trying to figure out who was who and keep track of the characters. But once I figured that out, I was good to go, and it soon became apparent what's so special about this book.

Main character Piet Hoffmann has a life so secret, only one other person knows about it. A police informant, he's so deep into the Polish mafia that he's now organizing sales of amphetamines smuggled into Sweden by human mules. Yet Piet is also a family man with a loving wife, Zofia, and two young sons whom he adores. Only Piet's handler Erik (who knows Piet by his code name Paula) is aware of Paula's role in this highly covert mission.

When a drug deal goes bad and an undercover policeman is killed execution style, Piet begins to struggle with the conflicting priorities of his life. His Polish 'CEO' back in Warsaw wants him to lead a new 'business initiative' supplying drugs to Swedish prisons. But in order to do this, Piet will have to be convicted of a crime and go to prison. In doing this, he risks everything, including the family he loves.

In the meantime, veteran Stockholm investigator Ewart Grens is looking into the drug-related murder. Still grieving from the loss of his wife and his role in it (a sub-story which will be partially revealed), Ewart sincerely believes he's on the trail of a psychopath. Since I don't do spoilers, I won't say more, except to say that the last 200 pages of this book are impossible to put down. And I didn't put it down until I finished, even though it was well after midnight on a "school" night when I finished it last Thursday.

If you like thrillers, police procedurals, or Scandinavian crime novels, you have to read this. And although it's still not on Kindle (WTH???), it's available on Nook. The US paperback is being pre-sold online now with an expected release date of 01 November 2011. Oh, and there's always the hardcover -- if you can stand it. :)