** spoiler alert **
Liza Marklund, one of Sweden's most successful authors, is astonishingly uneven: she alternates very good feminist thrillers with ones that are dull, incoherent or close to embarrassing.
This one was written just after
, her breakthrough novel and still probably her best. In the previous book, Marklund skilfully alternates two plot threads. Annika, the heroine, is a journalist who's covering a story about a grisly murder; at the same time, she's having horrible problems at work from male colleagues who are doing everything in their power to make life impossible for her. She gradually comes to the realisation that she knows who the killer is, and that she'd been suffering very similar problems which in the end pushed her over the edge. It's extremely well done, possibly the best book I have read on workplace harassment.
Now, unfortunately, Marklund tries to reprise the formula, and it all goes wrong. First, she makes it a prequel, always a risky move, and then she switches the theme to violence against women. I suppose that in theory she's doing something good, but her touch, admirably light in Sprängaren
, is leaden. Grimly painting by numbers, she sets up the same two parallel threads. Annika's on her first job as a journalist... the story involves a girl who's found dead in a cemetery... the girl was in an abusive relationship... and, you see it coming a mile away, Annika's also
in an abusive relationship.
Clunk, clunk, clunk. At the end, she escapes the murdered girl's fate by doing unto others as they would do unto you but doing it first. Hot tip to all you women out there with abusive boyfriends: as soon as he's killed your cat, it's okay to push him down a mineshaft.