“It’s a better class of murder in Sweden. . . . Epic in scale and ambition, this announces a new arrival in the Swedish crime galaxy.”

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

Perhaps the weather has something to do with it – the dark long Swedish winters  that breed despair and discontent. The latest crop of crime writers beginning with Stieg Larsson have all been Swedish and many of them specialize in cruel killings. The Victim Without A Face is set in Helsingborg where the small town peace is rocked by a series of gruesome murders. Onto the scene comes the amazingly named detective, Fabian Risk who has just brought his wife and his troubled marriage from Stockholm in the hope that a new posting to his childhood home may improve his family life. Risk finds that the murders are all linked to his class in school.

Annhem fixes our attention on the most probable suspect, Claes Mallvik, who was bullied throughout his teenage life by two of the murder victims. And establishes Risk as a loner who chooses to follow his hunches without informing his new boss. The body count rises along with the inventive killings which make Victim Without A Face a very gruesome read at times. It is obvious that someone is out for revenge, but  even though each murder has a story to tell, the main suspect is not the right person.

Along the way are the details of every day life in Sweden, a place where nuclear families are common and people fall out with their friends and neighbours. Where schools become testing grounds in a world of parents with their own family problems. Risk is so involved with his life and the new crime that he fails to notice he is alienating his son until it is almost too late.

In this, his first novel,  Annhem, a TV scriptwriter, gives us his taken on a modern social order where people tend to overlook the unsuccessful or the retiring resulting in a brood of serial killers who want their five minutes of fame. Most people would think the title referred to the dead victims, but it actually refers to the murderer as well, one of those faceless people who want recognition but find themselves overlooked, even by bullies. Crime is in the end a social commentary.

 

Reviewed by:

Anjana Basu

Added 29th January 2017

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Anjana Basu

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