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Misterioso / The Blinded Man

Misterioso (US) / The Blinded Man (UK) is the first novel the Intercrime series :

 

Sweden’s elite are under attack. Two rich and powerful men have been murdered, and in the face of mounting panic - and media hysteria - a task force has been created to catch the killer.

To his surprise, Detective Paul Hjelm, currently under investigation for misconduct after shooting a man who took a bank hostage, is summoned to join the new team.

But the killer has left no clues, even removing the bullets from the crime scenes, and Hjelm and his new teammates face a daunting challenge if they are to uncover the connection between the murdered men and identify any potential victims before he strikes again.

 

****

  

In the sheer panic after the killings of a couple of high society businessmen, the Chief of Police decides to start up a new elite force, comprising of selected officers from all corners of the country. Under the command of superintendent Jan-Olov Hultin, the group launches its mission – to find the elusive killer that enters the homes of businessmen late at night, waits for them in their living rooms, while listening to jazz, and finally shoots them with two distinctive bullets through the head. Different traces lead in different directions – to Russia, to the world of jazz and banking, and finally, after having been astray for a while, the Intercrime is lead right by a tape with Thelonius Monk’s jazz classic Misterioso…

A beautiful spring morning in the Swedish countryside is the backdrop when a foreign robber enters a deserted bank with just one single clerk behind the desk. This robbery shouldn’t be a problem. Somehow, though, he ends up dead on the floor, with a dart through his eye.

A few weeks later, the not-too-merited detective Paul Hjelm of the Stockholm suburbian police finds himself confronted with a hostage situation at the immigration office in his troublesome suburb of Botkyrka. Much to his own surprise, he enters the office single-handedly, rescuing the hostage from a desperate, worn-down Albanian immigrant who has recently been sentenced to deportation from Sweden. Hjelm manages to confuse him long enough to shoot him through the shoulder.

Afterwards, he is submitted to a harsh interrogation by officers from the Bureau of Internal Affairs. He is suspected of racism and lack of discipline. His defence is the opposite: Paul Hjelm saved the man’s life by shooting him. The hard core anti-terrorist unit would otherwise most likely have killed him. The officers are not impressed by his defence, and the question is if he is himself. He spends the night in agony. Is he a racist, as the Internal Affairs officers seem to believe? Or a hero, as the media have declared?

But someone is obviously impressed. The second day of the interrogation another face appears in the secluded interrogation room. It is quite a different one. It is older and with a very big nose, and it introduces itself as superintendent Jan-Olov Hultin of the National Police. He tells Paul Hjelm that a strange serial killing is taking place in Stockholm at this very moment. High businessmen seem to be executed in a row, all by the same mafia-like method. A new group is being formed – would Hjelm like to join them?

The morning after he suddenly finds himself moved to the City Police, he finds himself surrounded by a strange crowd of detectives from all around Sweden, and they all seem pretty bright. He himself is there as the new-crowned Botkyrka-hero, instantly partnered up with the Chilean Jorge Chavez, who also suspects him of racism.

This is the beginning of the long story of the Intercrime, the well-merited writer and critic Jan Arnald’s secret transformation into the thriller writer Arne Dahl. Tired of the ordinary clichés and formalized style of traditional thrillers (but also of certain elitist traits of traditional high literature) he wanted to make police work and detection a matter of real importance, no less poignant and touching than so called “high literature”. From the beginning basically a story of the growth and maturity of a rather conventional policeman, Paul Hjelm, in the hardening society of a small country abruptly getting internationalized, it gradually turns into a story of a strong collective trying to uphold certain moral incentives against an unscrupulous world. And it does so by maintaining the essential traits of “high literature” – a richly varied style, a nuanced set of characters, a certain intellectual level of comprehension, and, not least, a sense of humour that is quite unique – while still being a true thriller: hardboiled, exciting, surprising, and loaded with action. This Intercrime (shortly to become the more impressive-sounding “The National Police’s Special Unit for International Violent Crimes”) slowly turns into a collective hero that is likely to become The reader’s friend for life.

There are, apart from Paul Hjelm and Jan-Olov Hultin, the bright but troubled woman Kerstin Holm from Gothenburg, the pale Finnish intellectual Arto Söderstedt, the small, dark, and very energetic Jorge Chavez of Chilean ancestry; there is the enormous Gunnar Nyberg, once a bodybuilder and a wife-beater, constantly looking for solace in the church choir; and there is the not-altogether-bright and slightly inflexible Viggo Norlander, who is, however, severely transformed in Misterioso.

This happens through a strange series of events, when he is following one of the leads of the book. For a while it seems obvious that the killing of the high Swedish businessmen are connected to the Russian-Estonian mafia’s “protection” of international companies. But there is really not much to do about it, except through normal, slow international police channels. Norlander, however, suddenly gets fed up with his entire situation as a Swedish police officer with his hands tied. He makes a sudden and unauthorized move into the capital of Estonia, Tallinn, where he ends up nailed to the floor with a message alongside that the mafia had nothing to do with the killings. 

There are, though, certain important but surprising connections to the mafia, and Paul Hjelm discovers them through a music tape that the killer – that keeps killing – is forced to leave behind during one of the murders. It contains a rare recording of Misterioso with the Thelonius Monk quartet. From the discovery of this tape, the quest takes a new turn, and it points straight into Swedish internal affairs, to the great bank crisis a few years back. And it also points back to a small rural bank in the south of Sweden…

Misterioso is a book that dives straight into the contemporary problems of Sweden, a small but independent northern country that recently has been forced to give up its naivety and to surrender its virginity to a globalized world. It looks frenetically for the origins of the reduction of human values in a world that seems to have lost all connection with a decent life. And it does so with great anger, great blackness, great skill, great smartness, great wit – and, not least, a great, absorbing sense of entertainment and action.

***

Although initially published after Bad Blood, Misterioso is the first installment in the Intercrime series.

 

Utskriftvänlig version
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