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A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the sixth novel in the Intercrime series.  

Arne Dahl’s sixth stand-alone crime novel in the series about the Intercrime is set during one long, hot, electrifying midsummer week with almost magical feeling. A Polish nurse, in Sweden as a guest worker, is murdered with an axe, a TV executive is shot to death after the premiere of a docu-soap, a planned “honor killing” takes an unexpected turn. And in the end it all becomes very personal, not least for detective Jorge Chavez.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream combines the best of that which we have come to associate with Dahl: the intensity of the style, the finesse of the characters, the surprises of the plot, the power of the social criticism and the bitter blackness of the humour – this time with a touch of slightly magical midsummer eroticism. Dahl has never been better.

Things are a-changing for the notorious Intercrime of the Swedish police. When we first meet them in A Midsummer Night’s Dream there is a party for superintendent Jan-Olov Hultin. He is retiring. Two new members of the team are introduced, and two old are disappearing. Well, not really disappearing, since Kerstin Holm has been appointed to superintendent and is now the new boss of the Intercrime. And Paul Hjelm got the job as chief of the Stockholm section of the Bureau for Internal Affairs. He will, in a sense, now be the supervisor of the team, one level up. A photographer is circling around at the party, taking pictures of the team partying. It all begins cheerfully.

And then we are immediately thrown into the mayhem of the mind of a journalist in jail. He is a TV critic at an important evening paper, and he is accused of having shot the producer of a TV company producing docu-soap shows. Did he kill him? He doesn’t really know, his memory is blank, but it isn’t at all impossible.

This goes for a few other arrested potential killers – that they are unsure about their guilt. It takes a while for the Intercrime to link them together. But when they do, something really big is starting to appear. These cases seem to be linked together by a common criminal ambition. And this ambition, in turn, seems to have a moral conviction that is more thought-through than any crime the Intercrime has ever confronted. Somebody is working hard behind the scene, as elusive as Puck in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. If he at all exists (and even this is not quite sure), he is a new kind of criminal, extremely intelligent and very, very tired of certain stupidities of the Western society of today.

Based upon Shakespeare’s classic play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream represents a new step in Arne Dahl’s writing. The prose has never flown easier, the plot has never been so seriously playful. In terms of pure literary imagination, this is his true masterpiece.

The seemingly scattered cases form a pattern, and this pattern is somehow talking about ethics. It isn’t quite clear how, but the search for this pattern coincides with the reader’s reading process. Moral questions gather in the mind of the reader – and at the same time the search for the potential killer goes on. With increasing speed.

Paul Hjelm is suddenly confronted with a very personal question. His best friend, detective Jorge Chavez of the Intercrime, temporarily on leave, caring for his newborn daughter, is all of a sudden accused of drug crimes. It all goes back to the time before the Intercrime, when Chavez was stationed in the countryside in the northern parts of Sweden. As an active musician he then ran a jazz club in Sundsvall – and according to the anonymous informer this jazz club was full of drugs. The reader now meets the unemployed Chavez as a bass player in an amateur rock band, and sometimes the band members share a common joint.

Hjelm has to confront the moral question of drug testing his old mate. If so, he must do so in secret. The moral questions confronting Paul Hjelm at his new post as an internal investigator are vital and important – and yet only one segment of the entire ethical web of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Because it is an ethical web – a continuous discussion of the moral issues of the contemporary Western society – and still it is a light, witty, inventive, playful text with its fair share of action, suspension, thrills, and horror. It is a crime novel like no other crime novel – probably the most courageous of all of Arne Dahl’s novels. It stretches the borders of the genre and manages to transform it into something completely different, while still retaining the well-known power that makes the readers of Arne Dahl never wanting to stop.

With A Midsummer Night’s Dream Arne Dahl’s novels enter a new phase. Paul Hjelm has been promoted not only to superintendent, but also, in a sense, to the superego of the entire Intercrime. He is from now on looking into the activities of his former colleagues from a different height, with a different perspective. And he himself has gone through a divorce – he is in the process of development that to a certain extent is true also about the Arne Dahl books. This is a writer that never rests, that constantly wants to find new paths through the threatening jungle of crime fiction – the main threat being that of self-repetition, of making things easy for oneself. As A Midsummer Night’s Dream shows, Arne Dahl is a writer constantly in progress, a project in his own right, himself a piece of fiction signed the strangely eluding Jan Arnald, who with this book entered the world and claimed his rights as the fictive Arne Dahl. True or not? History will tell…

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