Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Box 21, by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

Having read somewhere that fans of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo would also like this book, I picked it up. It's nothing like Stieg Larsson's book at all.  In his novel, there's a mystery to be had as well as a strong heroine who lives by her own inner sense of morality and never wavers. Here, what you've got is a police procedural, a story of revenge and betrayal, and at its heart, an ethical and moral dilemma. That's not to say that this isn't a good book (it is), but it's a different animal altogether than Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The main focus of this novel  centers around the sex-slave trade. Young girls Lydia Grajauskas and Alena Sljusareva lived in Lithuania until promises of good jobs in Sweden brought them there, only to realize the first night on the boat trip to their new home that they had been horribly misled. They find themselves locked in the rooms of a house, prisoners, kept there by a nasty piece of work named Dmitri, brutalized into submission and forced to perform twelve times a day for various regular clientele.  Their situation has lasted three years and comes to a head one day, bringing the police into the situation, beginning a story that will absolutely make you cringe and want to look away as you read it. But you can't.

Aside from Lydia and Alena, the main characters in the novel are policemen, especially  Ewert Grens, a detective who has been obsessively gunning for a criminal named Jochum Lang who years earlier, caused Grens' partner Anni to live in a permanent state of brain damage and to be confined to a wheelchair. Grens is a puzzle to his co-workers -- his crime-solving rate is high, and he's good at his job, but since Anni's accident, he's been a loner, spending his time as a chronic workaholic, finding some solace in the music of a pop singer from the 1960s. As Grens works the case involving Lydia and Alena, he comes into possession of some  information that leads him to a critical juncture both in his life and in his career. His partner, Sundqvist, can't figure out what's going on until an order from above sends him off to find out the truth.

This is a dark book all the way through to the last page, which actually made my blood run cold. There are no feel-good or warm fuzzy moments here, no happy endings, and you will definitely have food for thought after you've finished. It's well written, the plotlines hang together well and all in all it is a great read.
I'd recommend it to people who like Scandinavian crime fiction, or crime fiction in general on a somewhat more gritty level than the usual fare.

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