In this superb translation, Sweden’s latest contribution to crime writing tackles some weighty subjects—specifically, the nature of identity, the Swedish police force’s use of civilians in its operations, and the safekeeping of its prisoners—as it twists, turns, and hurdles towards its conclusion. Despite the intensity of its finale, however, Three Seconds
is a novel to be savored, its multifaceted story line leisurely unfurling over the first 200 pages. The critics diverged over the novel’s characters— “complex” (USA Today
) or “tiresome [and] vaguely flawed” (New York Times
)—but most agreed that Roslund and Hellström’s gritty material, graphic style, and ingenious plotting combine to make Three Seconds
a gripping, intelligent, and, above all, worthy successor to the works of Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell.
*Starred Review* Piet Hoffman is a devoted husband and the father of two young sons. He’s also an ex-con who has been working undercover for the Stockholm police for nine years. Code named “Paula,” Piet has risen through the ranks of the Polish mafia and is chosen to lead the Poles’ effort to control the supply of amphetamines in Sweden’s prisons. To do that, Paula must get himself arrested and sent to a maximum security prison, wipe out the existing supplier, and keep himself alive until he has all the information needed for the police to move on the gang. Roslund, a former journalist, and Hellstrom, a former criminal, have concocted a brilliant thriller that posits a nearly literal invasion of Sweden by East European criminals allied with former state security agents. Combine that with a morally compromised police and Ministry of Justice effort to combat the invasion, and you have a genuine crisis. Piet’s growing fear of discovery or betrayal and his angst at his beloved wife’s ignorance of his work ratchet up the story’s tension page by page and make the novel extremely difficult to put down. Named the Swedish Crime Novel of the Year in 2009, Three Seconds puts Roslund and Hellstrom in the company of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson. Crime fiction rarely gets as good as this. --Thomas Gaughan