AN ACCIDENTAL DEATH?
Reporter Annika Bengtzon is working on the story of a devastating crime when she hears that a journalist investigating the same incident has been killed. It appears to be a hit-and-run accident.
A SERIES OF MURDERS
Several brutal killings follow - all linked by handwritten letters sent to the victims' relatives. When Annika unravels a connection with the story she's writing, she is thrown on to the trail of a deadly psychopath.
The fifth book in the Annika Bengtzon series, I've absolutely no idea whether or not the entire series has been translated in order or not. I've sort of lost the plot with this series, probably because the first book - THE BOMBER - didn't appeal a lot. The last I read, PRIME TIME, was better, but a lot of the problem is that Annika, as the main focus, is a character I find it very hard to either warm to, or increasingly raise much interest in.
The plot of RED WOLF, that idea of the past having a direct impact on the present, is something I'm noticing a lot these days. The interweaving of the 1969 destruction of a plane on a Swedish air base, home-grown Communist sleeper cells and the impacts of the Cold War on Sweden then and now was carefully drawn out, given immediacy and current day relevance by the death of another journalist, Benny Ekland. It's an interesting idea, in this book executed reasonably well, although it does take a little while to get going. Which wasn't exactly helpful, as there's also a lot going on in Annika's personal life, which, if like me, you're having trouble with Annika, doesn't help with getting into this book.
This is probably my biggest cause of confusion with this series. I can't work out why Annika grates quite as much as she does. Somehow she comes across to me as less stoic and determined and more whingy and inclined to play the martyr. Less put upon and more the cause of most of her problems.
There's also another pattern I've noticed a bit. Whilst having a journalist as an investigator of crimes, outside the law, isn't that big a stretch of the imagination, there is sometimes a tendency to just make out that the official police investigators have "missed" vital clues. Again, not a big stretch of the imagination to think that maybe it could happen... but every time a journalist is involved?
Blast, I think I'm in nitpicking territory. Which isn't a good thing. The biggest problem I've now got is that I'm not keen on the idea of just abandoning a series based on problems with one or two books - working on the principle that a book should stand alone, as well as be part of the series. 3 books out of 5 translated that have left me feeling a bit disappointed might mean that I have to shuffle the other couple down the priority pile a bit.
PRIME TIME - Liza Marklund
It's Midsummer and Annika Bengtzon, newspaper reporter and mother, is preparing for family celebrations at her partner's parents Island Holiday home. When she gets a call to say that Michelle Carlsson, a big name TV presenter has been murdered, and Annika has been assigned to follow the story, Thomas is furious at her for leaving him to get the children to his parents alone. Annika's just returned to work after maternity leave and her relationship with Thomas is increasingly fraught with tension and anger.
Annika is instantly torn between the fascination of a major murder investigation and the call of her family. On the one hand - a murder in a remote, isolated location during the filming of a prime-time TV series; a limited number of suspects, one of whom is her own best friend; and the victim Michelle - a controversial person, and long-time target of Annika's own paper. On the other hand, her own very young children; an increasingly difficult relationship with the disgruntled and demanding Thomas; and her parents-in-law who just do not approve of Annika and maintain an ongoing close friendship with Thomas' first wife.
The central mystery in PRIME TIME is a twist on the classic closed room scenario. There are only twelve suspects and there are all sorts of complicated personal and professional factors affecting all of the suspects and their relationships with the victim. There is a police investigation, and a police investigator, Q, who plays a very small role in the book. The investigation of the crime in this book is done by Annika as she sets out to find the story and ensure her best friend is not incriminated. There is also all of the machinations and manoeuvring of media organisations; even Annika's own paper seems to be embroiled in scandals and management power struggles.
PRIME TIME is the 4th book in a series which concentrates on Annika's own life, her career and her personal relationships. There's absolutely nothing easy about Annika. In the earlier books she's a very angry, prickly and difficult woman, always complaining, always rubbing up against everyone around her. In PRIME TIME the chip on Annika's shoulder has decreased in size a little, but there are definitely times when you'd like to take both Annika and Thomas by the hand and bang their heads together. Towards the end of PRIME TIME they are both starting to see what the real problems are and they start sorting out their personal relationship and their own careers.
As Annika searches out the story behind Michelle and ultimately her murder, there are some of the 12 suspects who become very real, whilst others remain very shadowy and under-drawn. Despite the quick dissipation of the closed room scenario, as the suspects leave the scene of the murder and return to their own environments, there is a final "drawing room" denouncement.
There's some real skill in the writing here, Annika's not a character that's easy to warm to, but you really feel inclined to stay with her to the end.