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Posts Tagged ‘alexander soderberg’

otherson_cvr

I know, I know. It is that time of the year where we all get touchy and as the eggnog flows, most people want to curl up to something warm and fuzzy. The last thing you want to read about is about Swedish psychopaths. Alas, I missed that memo. Sorry chaps.

About a year ago (or so), I had reviewed Söderberg’s debut, The Andalucian Friend, and we were introduced to Sophie Brinkmann, the nurse, and her son, Albert. In Friend, one of Sophie’s patient was a drug kingpin named Hector Guzman who, seemingly, took a liking to her. Unfortunately, the moment Sophie started falling for his charms, that was the moment her world exploded as her path collided with a delightful (and frightening) array of characters that pretty much blurred the lines between good and evil. Actually, they practically erased the bloody line. Seemingly vicious gangsters that actually had somewhat of a moral compass and law enforcement officials that were morally void sociopaths that would render most demons speechless. All those roads (littered with corpses and drenched in blood) seem to lead to Sophie. Needless to say, not in a pleasant way. In the end of Friend, we find Hector Guzman in a coma and Sophie being offered a choice she can’t possibly refuse: take control of Hector’s affairs or face the possibility of being dirtnapped. Hmm, decisions … decisions.

Other Son opens, six months later, and we find Sophie managing the slowly crumbling Hector Guzman empire whilst being guided throught the proverbial shark-infested waters of the drug trade by Hector’s loyal and lethally efficient right-hand, Aron Geisller. Living her life constantly peering over her shoulder and bogged down by Aron’s security protocols, Sophie finds herself being pushed further and further to the edge of the abyss. To add to her troubles, Ralph Hanke (Hector’s rival) has become quite bold and vicious in his attacks as he sanctions the kidnapping of a Lothar Tiedmann, Hector’s illegitimate son. Sophie soon finds herself being tested by various cutthroat factions and being pushed into making decisions that raises Aron’s eyebrows … and that is not a good thing. Now I know what you’re thinking … it can’t get any crazier than this. And I have to say to you that you really don’t know Scandanavian crime novels. Enter Tommy Jansson (corrupt cop extraordinare), Antonia Miller (an actual decent cop with really good wits), Ove Negerson (a half-black, half-Swedish psychopath), and Miles Ingmarsson (a surveillance expert that seems to spends most of his time in strip clubs), Koen (a heroin addicted hitman) and the loveable bear of a Russian mafioso, Mikhail, returns. Aye, to say that the shit is about to hit the fan is, laughably, the biggest uderstatment of the century. There are more twists and turns than disorganized origami and intrigue is so thick that you can almost gag on it. The body count climbs (caution: try not to get attached to characters) and the blood spatters like something in Dexter’s wet dream. The race to the jaw-dropping (yet abrupt) conclusion will keep you riveted, fired up and jonesing for the next sequel by Söderberg.

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andaluciancvr

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.

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