In the middle of the freezing winter, a journalist is murdered in the northern Swedish town of Lulea. Crime reporter Annika Bengtzon suspects that the killing is linked to an attack against an air base in the late 60. Against the explicit orders of her boss, Annika continues her investigation of the death, which is soon followed by a series of shocking murders.
Annika quickly finds herself drawn into a spiral of terrorism and violence centered around a small communist group called The Beasts. Meanwhile, her marriage starts to slide, and in the end, she is not only determined to find out the truth, but also forced to question her own husband's honesty.
Thanks to the incredible popularity of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, Swedish crime novels are a hot commodity, and thus Liza Marklund’s 2003 novel Red Wolf is getting a renewed push in the U.S. Marklund’s work shares certain qualities with Larsson’s: Her main character, Annika Bengtzon, is a journalist, and Marklund (who also co-wrote The Postcard Killers with James Patterson) is interested in commentary about Swedish society alongside a good old-fashioned mystery. Red Wolf is the fifth novel featuring Annika, but it stands pretty well on its own, and any references to previous stories are understandable in context. It’s more streamlined than Larsson’s work, although it has some of the same tendency to get bogged down in unnecessary detail.
Narrator Jill Tanner performs the story in her crisp British accent, which can take a little getting used to; her motherly tone almost makes it sound like she’s reading a bedtime story, which is at odds with the sometimes lurid account of a former 1960s radical who’s returned to Sweden and may be murdering his former associates. But once you get onto Tanner’s wavelength, her style turns out to fit the material quite well, especially since Annika herself is a mother, albeit one who’s dealing with marital problems and may not exactly be the world’s best parent. Tanner tackles the various hard-to-pronounce names of Swedish towns, roads, and people with aplomb, and keeps the story moving at a steady clip.
The various digressions about Swedish media politics and the emotional lives of Annika’s husband and best friend, however, sound tedious no matter who’s reading them. The plot hinges on a whole lot of coincidences that may make seemingly irrelevant passages suddenly important, but also tend to stretch believability a little far. Still, the story is generally intriguing, and Annika is a character worth following. Stieg Larsson fans, here’s your next step. Josh Bell
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will there be more translations to english?