Manny's Reviews > Nobels testamente

Nobels testamente by Liza Marklund
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's review
Mar 03, 12

bookshelves: swedish-norwegian-and-danish, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, history-and-biography, older-men-younger-women
Read from September 12 to 20, 2010

You'll be hearing more about this hitherto unknown Swedish thriller: Yellow Bird, who made the three Millenium movies (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, etc), are apparently going to film it. Remember you read it here first.

But back to the book. It's harder than I expected to review Nobels Testamente, #6 in the Annika Bengtzon series, because it's really three books in one. The surface story is a fairly conventional thriller set in the world of Swedish biotech research. The chairwoman of the Nobel Prize committee has been spectacularly murdered while she's dancing at the Nobel Dinner; Annika, as usual, just happens to be a couple of metres away, and becomes involved in the case. This part of the story is fun, but I had a hard time suspending disbelief. I have worked at several research institutes and visited many more, and to say that Marklund is exaggerating doesn't begin to cover it. But if you're not another researcher, you may be happy to buy her version of the research world.

The second thread is about Alfred Nobel's life. I didn't know that much about Nobel, and found it very interesting. Some bits of it seemed so unlikely that I was sure she had to be making them up: in fact, I quickly found out that it was all true. I don't want to give any of this away, since it's important to the plot, but I assure you that you'll be startled as well. There's considerably more to this guy than inventing dynamite and establishing the Nobel Prize.

So... the thriller and the history were OK, but, as usual in the Annika Bengtzon books, the thing that really grabs you is her descriptions of everyday life, in particular the heartbreak of being a working mother. The only author I can think of who is better at voicing women's frustration and anger is Fay Weldon, and Marklund runs her close. Let me tell you the sequence I liked best.

Annika's come into some money, and has just moved from Kungsholmen, a friendly but moderately downmarket part of Stockholm, to Djursholm, an expensive suburb. She feels out of place and the kids are having problems at their playgroup. It becomes clear that Kalle, her six year old, is being bullied by the bigger kids in his class. Her marriage is also in trouble. She knows that Thomas was seeing someone else, but he doesn't know that she's found out. Neither of them will admit what's going on and they're barely talking to each other. Thomas starts working longer and longer days, concentrating on his new career at the Justice Department. He feels he's headed for great things.

Everything explodes the day that Thomas is due to make his key presentation to the Minister and his associates. He's been preparing it for over a year, and is in agony of anticipation when the phone rings. It's the playgroup. Kalle has fallen from the climbing-frame and hit his head. They think it's a concussion. How soon can Thomas get there?

Thomas tells them to call Annika, who's supposed to be free that day, but her mobile is switched off. The woman at the playgroup is starting to sound seriously angry. He doesn't know what to do. In the end, he runs through his presentation as quickly as he can, then hightails it back to Djursholm. To make things even more complicated, he's invited his boss and some other important people to dinner that evening.

Annika, who's been out sleuthing, suddenly remembers her mobile is off. She turns it on again, and gets eight increasingly frantic messages. She's overcome with shame and guilt. For a moment, it crosses her mind that this is insane, surely she ought to be able to leave her mobile switched off for four hours without the sky falling? But, in fact, that exactly how things are if you're a working mother in the early 21st century. She left her mobile off, and the sky is about to fall. She makes it home, and finds a tearful Kalle and a stony-faced Thomas. Annika's heart is bursting. The only good bit of news is that the hospital ran a PET scan, and Kalle definitely doesn't have a cerebral hemorrhage. They'd thought for a few minutes that maybe he did.

She spends the rest of the afternoon fussing over Kalle and feeling terrible. Dinner, which has originally been intended as an elaborate gourmet experience, is drastically curtailed. Thomas is unimpressed with her food. Towards the end of the evening, there's an unpleasant scene with their neighbor, who's been consistently harassing them since they moved in. Thomas feels Annika has let him down there too.

Next afternoon, when she goes to pick up Kalle from school, she has a word with his teacher. She assumes that Lotta has had a serious talk with the bullies' parents? The teacher looks uncomfortable. They took the line that boys will be boys, she says. It was difficult to get them to understand that this was not a trivial incident.

Without quite knowing how she got there, Annika is truly desperate. Things are difficult at work. Her busband doesn't love her any more. The kids at school could have fatally injured her son, and might try it again. She feels she has nothing to lose. The following morning, she takes Kalle to school again. She can see the two boys who regularly pick on him playing in the sandbox. She goes over to the bigger one and put her face really close to his.

"Benjamin," she says quietly, "you're never, ever to hurt Kalle again. If you do, I'm going to come to your house when you're asleep, and I'm going to kill you."

She knows it's completely wrong, that an adult should not say such a terrible thing to a small child, that there will certainly be consequences, but she does it anyway. And there are terrible consequences, more terrible in fact even than Annika has been expecting.

For everyone else who's in post-Millennium withdrawal, help is approaching. The better Liza Marklunds are an acceptable substitute, and according to several Swedish sources they will start filming this one at the beginning of 2011. Annika is being played by Malin Crépin:


A moment's search on GIS will turn up several rather hotter pictures, if that's what you're after.

It's been released! The Swedish premiere was yesterday. You can see a trailer here.
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Reading Progress

09/13/2010 page 15
3.0% "Being a hitwoman is such a crap job, though making the actual hit gives you a momentary high. It certainly starts off well!"
09/14/2010 page 32
7.0% ""Hördu, din löpsedelskåta djävul". I'm curious to see how this gets translated into English. The best I can come up with is "Look, I know headlines get you all hot and wet, you bitch," but it's very approximate and the Swedish is so much better."
09/14/2010 page 75
17.0% "According to the Koran, the soul enters the body 120 days after conception. So Muslims think stem-cell research is perfectly OK. I never knew that!"
09/16/2010 page 125
28.0% "At the press conference, an American company says it's awarding the Swedish research institute a $100M contract. General hysteria among the academics. "Is that a lot or a little?" whispers Annika to the reporter sitting next to her. "I think it's a lot," he whispers back."
09/16/2010 page 180
40.0% "Annika hears a typical Silicon Valley startup story for the first time and is shocked. She's seen people murdered before, but this is worse."
09/17/2010 page 225
50.0% "Some quite intelligent debate on the pros and cons of bugging people suspected of involvement in terrorism. And the deadly Kitten is surely going to strike again soon. This book is fun!"
09/18/2010 page 250
55.0% "I've heard this conversation several hundred times, but it's new to Annika: "WHY ISN'T MY NAME ON THIS FUCKING PAPER???" "Because you didn't do any work on it." "I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!!!!""
09/19/2010 page 290
64.0% "Tomas is close to having created a new piece of Swedish legislation. The description of the process and his feelings are quite interesting."
09/19/2010 page 342
75.0% "The bit with the fish soup is absolutely brilliant. The subsequent murder is anticlimactic in comparison."
09/19/2010 page 380
84.0% "Another corpse. But the best bit in this chapter was definitely the visit to her appalling so-called best friend Anne. And now Thomas is going to be mad at her because she'll be late home. Poor Annika."
09/20/2010 page 410
90.0% "It was the butler's research assistant. I thought as much."

Comments (showing 1-14)

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message 14: by Julia (last edited Sep 13, 2010 07:59PM) (new)

Julia Beck Hi Manny, is this available in English translation? I just finished "the Bomber" (on your recommendation) and loved it.

Manny Hi Julia! I'm really glad to hear you liked Sprängaren/The Bomber! I just took a quick look around, and, according to this page, it seems that they still haven't translated Nobels Testamente. Probably coming soon though...

message 12: by Julia (new)

Julia Beck Thanks very much, 'though why I didn't check is a mystery.

Manny Ah, one still instinctively assumes that it'll be in some language one can't read. But now, in the new age of Google Translate, there's no such thing.

Or almost no such thing. I found a page the other day in Azerbajani, which Translate incorrectly thought was Turkish and couldn't handle at all...

message 10: by Gulla (last edited Sep 22, 2010 10:55AM) (new)

Gulla kulla Great review Manny.

A place in the sun by Liza Marklund was another page turner.

message 9: by Gulla (new)

Gulla kulla Manny your brother Peter has just got a son. Trying to write here as Goodreads seem to delete some messages. And this is a lovely message you don't want to have deleted.


message 8: by Gulla (new)

Gulla kulla Hi.

I can just see Annika writing something like this for javla Soffan.

NGE NGE Let my notes and comments be.

Manny Är det inte "Sophia FJ Grenborg"?

message 6: by Kullagulla (new)

Kullagulla I liked your review and I also enjoyed the book.

Did you know that Liza Marklund has established a literary price in Sweden for best woman crime writer who is not yet not established. Apparently she said in an interview that she believed in passing it on.

Manny Swedes use the combination blue/yellow as shorthand for Sweden, but yellow on its own isn't anything in particular. I took a quick look around, but so far haven't managed to figure out where the company's name comes from!

By the way, I am disappointed to add that all the reviews of the movie which I've so far found have been negative. Sounds like they had trouble getting the balance right between the different threads of the story... well, there is a lot to put into a single film.

Manny I meant the movie of this book... I have never seen Jag är nyfiken (gul), but maybe I should! The lead, Lena Nyman, went on to become one of Sweden's greatest actresses of the late 20th century. I wonder if it's possible to get it on DVD.

Manny A European format 2-DVD version with both films (yellow/blue) was available from for £5. Ordered and will report in due course :)

message 2: by Manny (last edited Mar 10, 2012 02:10PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny Just seen Jag är nyfiken (gul). It's still worth watching! Lena Nyman is indeed good in the lead role, there is some nice satire of the 60s political/sexual revolution thing, and the nude scenes deserve their fame - very funny, natural and sharply observed. People who call this pornography have a broad definition of the term.

notgettingenough Manny wrote: "Just seen Jag är nyfiken (gul). It's still worth watching! Lena Nyman is indeed good in the lead role, there is some nice satire of the 60s political/sexual revolution thing, and the nude scenes deserve their fame - very funny, natural and sharply observed. People who call this pornography have a broad definition of the term. ..."

Maybe it is just the dick thing. Dicks are always considered unacceptable because men don't want to look at them.

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