Maddy's Reviews > Three Seconds

Three Seconds by Anders Roslund
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Dec 10, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: tops, 2010-reads
Read in December, 2010

PROTAGONIST: DI Ewert Grens; infiltrator Piet Hoffman
SETTING: Sweden
SERIES: #5 of 5; 3rd book translated into English
RATING: 4.75

One of the tools that police departments often use is to develop a network of informants, people on the street who have access to the kind of information that they would be hard pressed to uncover. In some cases, the informant goes even further, with the subject actually infiltrating an organization that is of interest to the authorities. Such is the role of Piet Hoffman who over the course of many years has infiltrated the Polish Mafia in Sweden. His police contact, Erik Wilson, goes to extreme lengths to protect Hoffman. Recently, Hoffman has established himself with the upper echelons of the Poles and is on the verge of providing the police with an unparalleled opportunity to bring down their drug distribution network.

But then the unthinkable happens. While working through a drug deal, Hoffman realizes that one of the buyers is also an infiltrator. He can’t blow the cover that he has worked so hard to develop; the other man is murdered by Piet’s criminal cohorts. Hoffman anonymously calls the police to report the death, and the case is assigned to Detective Inspector Ewert Grens. Wilson goes through his chain of command to protect Hoffman, while Grens becomes increasingly frustrated because his investigation is going nowhere. At the same time, Grens is finally working through a personal situation that has consumed him for years, shedding the guilt he feels for an accident involving a colleague.

The undercover operation continues. Hoffman commits a minor crime so that he can go to prison and work on establishing the Polish Mafia as the source for drugs for the inmates with the Mafia’s ultimate goal being to control the drug distribution in the country’s fifty-six prisons. Before being committed, he has met with the police authorities and been reassured that he will be released from the prison within two years and that he will be protected while he is there. Before he is incarcerated, he takes several actions to plan for what he will do in the event that he is exposed and the guarantee conveniently forgotten.

Although the start of THREE SECONDS is somewhat slow, it rapidly evolves into an unputdownable narrative. The character of Piet Hoffman is an intriguing one. He is devoted to his wife and two sons; yet, he is willing to sacrifice those relationships in his unwavering commitment to the task that he has been assigned. It was fascinating to watch him plan for his prison stay, without quite knowing why he was doing what he was doing. It all made sense in the end. In an interesting quandary, I found myself hoping that somehow the brilliant and dedicated Grens would falter in his investigation. The book builds to an explosive climax and a most satisfying conclusion. Although the story of Piet Hoffman was what kept my adrenalin pumping, the whole issue of the government lies that Grens uncovers was quite compelling as well.

I found THREE SECONDS to be an engrossing and exciting read. Certainly, the fact that it received the Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year in 2009 was justified.
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