The Invisible Man from Salem, Christoffer Carlsson
I'm now firmly of the opinion that it takes real skill to stuff up the order of a series to the extent that I seem to manage to do it. One day I'll find a use for that skill, but nowadays it just means I spend my life staring at piles of books thinking, oh buggeration, there's another one I should have read before... Thus THE INVISIBLE MAN FROM SALEM.
Which is the first in the Leo Junker series, a series which I've read in the order THE FALLING DETECTIVE (#2); MASTER, LIAR, TRAITOR, FRIEND (#3) (so at least that was right), then THE INVISIBLE MAN FROM SALEM (#1) and now I've got THE THIN BLUE LINE (#4) to go. Fortunately, none of the mis-ordered reading mattered. This is an excellent series, dark and very noirish in styling, set in Stockholm, featuring disgraced Internal Affairs officer Leo Junker.
This case, that of a young woman murdered in a refuge on the ground floor of his apartment building, he bluffs / forces / inserts himself into the crime scene when sheer curiosity takes over from any possible police rules. The dead woman is clutching a necklace, one that turns out to be very intimately connected to him, and to his childhood, and one that he really didn't need to be anywhere near once it was found in the hands of a dead young woman. What started out as a seemingly random killing, or a domestic, or something connected to the drugs underworld, then takes Junker back to his troubled youth in the Stockholm suburb of Salem, back to a lurking presence from that past, and what seems like a very personal vendetta against his present.
Having been mightily intrigued by THE FALLING DETECTIVE, and pretty well hooked by MASTER, LIAR, TRAITOR, FRIEND going back to book number one in the series definitely filled in some gaps in my understanding of the central character - Leo Junker - and made me think long and hard about how readers connect with a series overall. This opening salvo sets up the story of Junker in a very noirish manner. A lone wolf, world weary, disgraced, suspended police officer with a medical issue, he's repressed, self-absorbed, convinced of his own rightness, even when confronted with his wrongness and oddly determined to keep the world at bay, whilst never actually being able to leave well enough alone.
Whether or not this would have been an opening to a series that would have grabbed my interest as hard as the first and second books did is hard to say. By the later books author Christoffer Carlsson had settled into a style - noir in flavour, Swedish in delivery that dodged some of the familiar tropes more evident in this first novel, although I did find the clever, forceful, tattooed ex-lover an interesting little hat tip. There's also something in this novel that suggests, subtly, that Junker actually couldn't give a monkey's what anyone thinks - including the reader, which is both slightly off-putting and mightily intriguing all at the same time.
If you're coming to the Leo Junker series in the correct order, and you're feeling any of the slight quibbles I felt then I can only suggest that you press on with haste. If you're coming to the series in the correct order, and you've not experienced a single one of the slight quibbles, then I wouldn't be at all surprised about that either. I'm certainly intending to read novel number 4 as soon as I possibly can. This is a good series, which has the potential to be a great series indeed.
In the final days of summer, a young woman is shot dead in her apartment. Three floors above, the blue lights of the police cars awaken disgraced ex-officer Leo Junker. Though suspended from the force, he can’t stay away for long. Bluffing his way onto the crime scene, he examines the dead woman and sees that she is clasping a cheap necklace — a necklace he instantly recognises.
As Leo sets out on a rogue investigation to catch the killer, a series of frightening connections emerge, linking the murder to his own troubled youth in Salem — a suburb of Stockholm where social and racial tensions run high — and forcing him to confront a long ago incident that changed his life forever.
Now, in backstreets, shadowed alleyways, and decaying suburbs ruled by Stockholm’s criminal underground, the search for the young woman’s killer — and the truth about Leo’s past — begins.