A lot of good things have come out of the Scandinavian countries: Danish cookies, hot Swedish women, some awesome beer, and ABBA. Yes, I said it … ABBA (which holds a prominent spot in my Zune mp3 player). And as of lately, so is the writing thanks to the Steig Larsson and his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Yes, I have seen the original Swedish version with Noomi Rapace but has yet to actually read the books (aye, shame, shame, shame). And yes, I did see the American version also. Now I’m not going to be one of those pretentious tossers that’ll go around being snooty about the different versions and other such bollocks. Let’s just say that Mara did a great job, but she’s no Noomi, who’s got that dark-haired, sensual, mysterious European thing going for her. Let’s pause for a moment to think about this. Hmm. Aha. Yes. Jolly good. Sadly I have detoured and may have ventured into strange territory. To the review … shall we?
Sophie Brinkmann is a widow, single mom and nurse living a sublime life in some Swedish suburb. Her son, Alberto, is the joy, heart and apple of her eye. During her rounds at the hospital, Sophie encounters an exotic patient named Hector Guzman and despite her training she develops a friendship with Mr. Guzman. Apparently, Hector is quite the Lothario and Sophie is subconsciously drowning in his charm. Unknown to Sophie, she is also unwittingly drawn into a sinister web of sorts as she gains the interest of a Machiavellian female commanding police officer named Gunilla. Yes, that is her name (sounds like a cross with Gun and Godzilla) and yes, she is as vicious as she sounds. Maybe a wee bit more. It turns out that Hector is a subject of interest for Gunilla, and apparently so is anyone that makes his acquaintance. The moment Hector leaves the hospital, it doesn’t take long for the intrigue and violence to rear its head as the reader finds themselves immersed with coke-sniffing, gun-running, Russian Mafiosos; thuggish and corrupt cops; a prescription drug addicted cop that doesn’t mind pilfering the occasional panty or two from female surveillance subject’s house(ah, those kinky Europeans); and as mentioned before, a ruthless, manipulative female commanding police officer that is willing to use anyone or anything as a means to an ends.
Söderberg’s Friend is marinated in intrigue, in a topsy-turvy world filled with virtuous criminals and dreadfully corrupt lawmen. The violence is quick, vicious and merciless often catching the reader off-guard and occasionally knocking them senseless. You’ll find yourself rooting for Sophie as she maneuvers through this vicious labyrinthine game of cat and mouse, a game that she was unwittingly thrusted into. Each character has a story to tell, some heartwarming, and some very dark and disturbing that adds to an intense, fiery tale that thunders towards a breathtaking conclusion that’ll keep you guessing to the very end.
Note to self: must read more Scandinavian writers. Paging Jo Nesbø.