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THREE SECONDS Hardcover – January 4, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews
Book 5 of 3 in the Ewert Grens Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

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.

From Booklist

*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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 489 pages
  • Publisher: SILVER OAK; 1st edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402785925
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402785924
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #427,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Larkin on January 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Piet Hoffman, Swedish undercover police informer, has climbed very high in the ranks of the Polish Mafia when he haplessly witnesses a murder during a drug deal gone terribly wrong. While Inspector Ewert Grens investigates the murder, Hoffman's Mafia masters want him in prison to take over drug operations there. A secret arm of the law agrees, and offers him and his family protection and new identities for breaking the drug operations of the Mafia in the Swedish prison system. But they reckoned without the indefatigable Grens, intent on solving his case all unaware of the secret agenda.

A stunningly well-written police procedural meets thriller meets psychological suspense novel; this book succeeds in all three genres. At times the suspense was so well drawn, and had so drawn me in, that I had to put the book aside for awhile to regain my composure. The details of the drug trade, particularly the description of the 'mules' in the early chapters, were disgusting to read but nonetheless set the story up perfectly.

This gritty, breathtaking story of colliding cases featuring corrupt officials, a barely sane investigator, and a nimble and likable ex-con has lingered in my mind.
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Format: Hardcover
If you like the tale of political corruption of the American counterpart Gods of Ruin or the dark mysteries of Steig Larsson, you will enjoy this action-packed thriller. It's the second in the series, but it is easily a stand alone. And those wacky Swedes do it again! For such a small country, Sweden is like 1920s Chicago when it comes to crime, at least as far as these books make it seem. The protagonist, Grens is put on a murder case early, which leads nowhere, but eventually picks up in conjunction with a conspiracy of Polish drug cartels and former Swedish government officials focused in the nation's prisons.

It's a very compelling book, but that could be because of the unique writing style of almost note-like sentences, followed by full descriptive paragraphs. In that sense, Three Seconds is almost a work of art on two levels--the story and the actual book itself.

If you enjoy a complex take of intrigue and fascinating characters, or if you ran out of Larsson books, you will dig this.
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Format: Hardcover
I received an ARC of "Three Seconds" for B&N's First Look book club.

Wow. What an intense book!

Three Seconds tells the story of the role of criminal informants in Sweden in infiltrating the criminal underworld. Piet Hoffman is an ex-criminal and an informant for the Swedish police, attempting to help them infiltrate the drug trade of the Polish mafia. We open at the scene of a botched drug buy that results in a murder, which veteran police investigator Ewert Grens is assigned to investigate. But because the use of informants is a well-kept secret, Grens finds details that don't quite add up and begins to suspect there may be more than meets the eye... As Grens gets closer to the truth, Piet is more and more in danger as he attempts to infiltrate and secure the drug trade in the Swedish prisons. For Piet, success means being able to go back to his family and start a new life with them; failure means certain death.

It took me a little while to really get into Three Seconds; the book is split into five sections, and the first two went by a little slowly. It took me several days to read the first 200 pages or so, but I ended up reading the last 250 pages in about a day! Once the action picked up in Part Three, there was no way to put the book down; it was relentless and so suspenseful that I had trouble setting it down for even a few minutes at a time. The first two parts are heavy on the backstory and character development, but I don't think that it was detrimental in any way (other than making for a slower read at first) because it made the characters more interesting and compelling in the later parts, and only added to the intensity of the action. By the end, I found myself cheering for Piet and crossing my fingers that he would make it out alive.
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Format: Hardcover
Gosh, I don't think this is a 5 star book. And if you're looking for something like the Stieg Larsson titles (all of which I devoured and loved), this surely isn't it. I don't know whether it's the translation or the original writing, but it is very much overwritten and melodramatic -- repeated stating of the obvious -- "he could die" -- "if he didn't do it, he would be dead"-- etc. The Scandinavian names and locations also get in the way more than they did with Larsson's efforts. Moreover, the main character, Ewert, is not particularly likable, and a lot of the other characterizations in the book (e.g., the Swedish police higher ups) are either perfunctory or clichéd.

The book is divided into 5 parts, and I was ready to abandon ship during the first two parts (which represent, according to my Kindle, about 40%). I will admit that the third part, and a good chunk of the fourth (maybe 40-80%) were compelling and finally had me turning the pages. But then the plot became predictable again and bogged down in the writing, although, overall, at least I wasn't struggling like I was through the beginning. So, thankful for small favors, at least.

Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't recommend this title. Not a good reward to time spent ratio.
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