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Europe Blues

Europe Blues is the fourth novel in the Intercrime series.

 

What does the strange execution of a man at the Stockholm zoo Skansen have to do with the eight disappearing Eastern European women from a refugee station outside the city? And do these cases really have any connection with the horrifying murder of the old Jewish professor at the Jewish cemetery? And what is their relation to the diary from a vague, nightmare-like place on the border of death in 1945?


Could any of this really have the least to do with the Intercrime member Arto Söderstedt on a long vacation in Tuscany with his big family? Slowly the seemingly disconnected cases approach each other in the minds of the Intercrime. And time starts acting strange for superintendent Jan-Olov Hultin. The past is not in order. The different cases slowly form a net that his team throws over Europe – and over the dubious Swedish past. The Europe Blues was awarded with the Palle Rosenkranz Prize as the best international thriller in Denmark 2004.


A Greek gangster arrives in Stockholm with unknown orders from a large but secret criminal syndicate. In a state of megalomania he sits by the waterfront on the idyllic island of Djurgården, snorts a couple of coke strings and leaves the sea when the dusk is setting. In the shades of his slightly distorted consciousness he finds himself followed by strange, subhuman beings. He starts running and climbs into the Skansen zoo. The followers seem less and less human to him, and it is in a state of panic he is caught up by these goddesses from the ancient Greek stories that he has practically forgotten. He meets his death in the shape of sheer pain.

It is a peculiar sight that meets detectives Paul Hjelm and Jorge Chavez at the cosy Skansen the next, sunny spring morning. From the fence surrounding the wolverine cage hangs a rope, and in the rope hangs parts of a leg. The rest of the body seems to have been consumed by the seemingly innocent little furry creatures. Who is the victim? How did he end up here? 

At the same time the female detectives Kerstin Holm and Sara Svenhagen are confronted with the mystery of eight disappearing Eastern European women in a refugee station outside the city. Why did they disappear? Who were they? There are indications of prostitution.

A very old man is travelling through the Stockholm underground with death as travel partner. He is quite convinced that he is accompanied by angels of vengeance. On the borderline of death he is confronted with his own past, things are happening to it, it seems to be changing before his very eyes. When he is caught and strung up upside down in a tree at the Jewish cemetery he smiles, knowing that the past has finally caught up with him.

Paul Hjelm and Jan-Olov Hultin arrives to the scene in a nocturnal darkness that gives it a purely mythical character. And when the numbers on the old mans wrist are uncovered, the entire scene becomes a vision from an historical nightmare.

By this time The Europe Blues is turning into a masterpiece of truly cool writing, a frenetic sequence of disciplined yet constantly inventive improvisations around a firm blues theme. That the blues is the music of Europe’s past is getting clearer and clearer – and that the blues of today is not really lighter or brighter than that of the past. Even though the prose is light and overflowing with a true sense of humour the web of the plot is constantly tightening, making it hard to breathe while reading. This is where true mastery is revealed. 

Suddenly the easygoing Söderstedt family in the midst of Tuscany is called upon. The traces from the dead man in the zoo are leading to Italy, to Milan. Söderstedt finds himself deeply involved with the Italian police, and he soon becomes a temporary member of the Europol international police force. Strange connections between the contemporary enterprise of mafia controlled trafficking and the extermination camps of the Holocaust are starting to appear, and Söderstedt is thrown across the continent in his search for the truth. He is well guided through the continent by Paul Hjelm and Kerstin Holm in a peculiarly erotic-like cooperation, moving the couple closer and closer to each other.

The shocking truth is revealed in a breathtaking sequence of insights. Everything lands in its right place, and still everything seems improvisational, in the typically and thoroughly musical style that is the trademark of Arne Dahl.

Still the precision of the plot is never allowed to block the ethical and relational questions that flame at the core of this story of life’s greatest questions. Whoever claimed that the popular literary genres has a lighter critical mass than “serious” literature should be forced to read The Europe Blues and revise this hasty judgement.

It is very rare with this constellation of the most satisfying entertainment possible and the most serious moral examination possible.

 

***

 

Europe Blues was awarded with the Danish Crime Writing Award (Palle Rosenkrantz Prisen) 2004 for Best Crime Novel of the Year in Denmark

The Europe Blues was #1 on the German KrimiWelt-Bestenliste in April 2005

 

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