Three Seconds (DCI Ewert Grens) Kindle Edition
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Because it is such an important relationship, there are many great senior-detective/detective pairings in these types of books. Sejer & Skarre from Karin Fossum, Adamsberg & Danglard from Fred Vargas, Gamache & Beauvoir from Louise Penny. Similar in some respects -- driven, crazed, intuitive, eccentric senior paired with someone with their own issues and problems, but usually more patient and long-suffering, tolerant, intelligent. But each of these character pairs have been created so well and are so compelling that they come alive. I can easily put Ewert Grens & Sundkvist in the same category.
I can't wait to read more!
A large part of the story is set inside a prison and reading the descriptions of what life behind bars is like from Hellström (who also had first hand experience) just brought the whole story to life. The book is a little hard to follow at times and I often found myself skimming a lot of it until I came to grips with who everyone was. This is the type of book that once you get into it you wish you'd paid more attention in the beginning! I urge you - although you might not feel like it, it's a good idea to concentrate on what goes on in the beginning as then the rest of the story will unfold more easily for you.
Some reviewers have suggested that Three Seconds is a yarn more spell-binding than the Larsson trilogy. That's why I sprang for $13.95. Its authors, Börge Hellström, (a former criminal) and Anders Roslund (an investigative journalist familiar with the law enforcement side) indeed tell a gripping story from the vantage points of a former criminal, Piet Hoffmann, and a detective, Ewert Grens.
I recommend the book, but let the buyer/reader beware. Story has it that Larsson's book was overwritten to the point that large chunks had to be cut before it could be set into print - even then it ran to 1,500 pages - with a thousand references to Swedish landmarks (streets, buildings, topography, cities, IKEA purchases, clothing, food, notably the consumption of coffee; Swedes must have the largest bladders in the world.)
Three Seconds suffers from the same malaise, but its illness is more severe. It runs to 485 pages - closer to 400 if one counts to blank pages, still much too long. Did it have an editor or did the editor just did not have the gumption to take a blue pencil and slash and burn the torrent of repetitive passages and those that add nothing to the narrative? The first one hundred pages - the introduction - should have been cut in half. How often does the reader need to be told that the initial murder took place at Västmannagatan 79, an address one can enter from two streets ? Or of Hoffmann's infinite and anguished love for Zofia and their small sons? I was convinced he loved her after the first dozen times. Or that poor Grens limps painfully dragging his left foot? Instead of breezing through the narrative, the reader winds up limping through it.
Then there is the translation. Perhaps the novel reads better in the original, but the translator (someone whose native tongue is Norwegian, who teaches Scandinavian Studies at the University of Edinburg and has an MA in translation, but into what language were are not told; there are few Joseph Conrads in this world who are truly at home in their adopted language.) The novel is filled with grammatical errors; there are passages impossible to understand; it is difficult to determine who is speaking.
Here's a case in point, and by no means an isolated one. Grens arrives at the maximum security prison that had just been wracked by violence. Law enforcement officers had descended on it, flooding the parking lot.
"Ewert Grens parked on some grass near the wall and, while he waited for Seven Sundkvist, made a phone call to Hermansson...." We know his given name is Ewert, indeed, at this point the novel becomes Grens' story; why he parked only on "some grass" (not "all" of the grass?) and not "on the grass" or "on the lawn," isn't clear. That he parked near the wall adds nothing and why he is waiting for Sven also adds nothing, since Sven came with him. Why not: "Grens parked on the grass and then phoned Hermansson, [9 words instead of 22; the novel could be used as a textbook for a course on "How to overwrite you novel and why you shouldn't do it."] The sentence continues: "who...was working on a report of the murder at Västmannagatan 79 [here's that address again], which was to be delivered to the prosecutor that afternoon. He would then decide whether to downgrade the investigation." But who is that mysterious "he" in the last sentence? It has to refer to the subject of the previous sentence, Grens. Yet it is the prosecutor who does all he can to deep-six the investigation. The point of a mystery novel is to figure out what happened in the end, not to scratch one's head trying to fathom the author's/ translator's mysterious prose.
Is it worth reading? Yes, but it's hardly the page-turner that Larsson has written. You won't see every other person on the DC Metro reading the book. Three Seconds may be the better novel (different strokes for different folks), but if it isn't plagiarism, it reads as if it were ripped from the headlines a la "Law & Order," the headline here being the Larsson trilogy. The heroes of both novels are tortured souls, misfits on the edge of polite society, a danger to the national security/law enforcement complexes, slated to be eliminated (Salander to be put away for all time in a psychiatric hospital; Hoffmann into a maximum security prison where is set up to be "burned" (nice medieval touch.) Both are survivors who lay bare institutional corruption at the highest levels (as they slash away with gusto at Sweden's picture-postcard image); both surrepticiously record incriminating evidence; both have a champion on the outside (Blomkvist and Grens); both are survivors who would make Indiana Jones turn green with envy.