From Publishers Weekly
The apparent suicide of an American journalist in 1970s Stockholm propels Persson's ponderous English debut, the first of a trilogy. The victim, John Krassner, was working on a book detailing the exploits of his uncle, Col. John Buchanan, an OSS agent in the years following WWII and Buchanan's ties to a now high-ranking Swedish politician known by the code name "Pilgrim." The Swedish secret police, who were hearing chatter concerning threats to the Swedish prime minister, had been keeping an eye on Krassner at the time of his death. Curious about Krassner after discovering a personal connection to the case, police superintendent Lars Johansson begins his own inquiry and unearths more than he bargained for, including disparate pieces of a vast political conspiracy. In contrast to the work of Stieg Larsson, this thriller lacks both memorable characters and a streamlined plot.
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The unsolved 1986 assassination of Swedish prime minister Olaf Palme hovers behind much of contemporary Scandinavian crime fiction, often as a watershed moment—the point at which the country’s slow decline into American-style crime and chaos kicked into high gear. Now Swedish writer Persson, in his U.S. debut, tackles the Palme case head-on, positing a believable scenario in which the prime minister’s death is almost an afterthought to another killing and its cover-up. It is a classic story of bureaucratic bungling and investigatory incompetence in which a deranged American journalist, convinced that his CIA-agent uncle worked with the young prime minister, sets out to write an exposé and winds up dead, inadvertently starting a random chain of events that leads to tragedy. Persson layers his incredibly dense novel, the first in a trilogy, with numerous parallel story lines and a plethora of characters, most of whom fail to capture our imagination. Clearly, the publisher is hoping for a Steig Larsson–type success here, but this is a very different book by a less-skilled storyteller. The vision of bureaucracy run amok that drives the premise is spot-on, but the onslaught of detail is, in the end, overwhelming. --Bill Ott