As a new year begins, the Stockholm police force is reeling after a shootout between cops & several rival gangs in Skarpö, a forested area east of the city. It ended with 9 dead including 2 of their own. Among the injured was DI David Sarac, a legend within the Intelligence Unit. In the days that followed, the incident was quickly hushed up & David disappeared.
In a high security hospital far from the city, David’s only goal is accumulating a big enough stash of sleeping pills to put a permanent end to his nightmares. His broken body may be healing but the PTSD has done a number on his head. Then someone slips him a letter. It’s short & to the point: my secret for yours.
David relives Skarpö every night. He feels responsible for what happened but he also knows that one of his colleagues stitched him up. The letter writer claims to know who & will reveal the name if David answers one question. It’s a chance for revenge he can’t pass up & with pills in hand, he escapes from the hospital.
A couple of months later, DI Julia Gabrielsson is attending one of the most gruesome autopsies of her career. The body was dismembered & under water for weeks before being found. Identifying the victim is just one of her problems. The other is babysitting her new partner Omar Amante, a civilian investigator foisted on her by her waste-of-a-uniform boss. He’s a man of few words & no one seems to know how he ended up assigned to the Violent Crimes Unit. Lab tests on the body provide just 1 result but it’s a whopper. DNA matches a sample taken from Skarpö.
That’s it for the story outline, folks. The thought of trying to summarize any more is, quite frankly, exhausting. This is one of the most complex, labyrinthine plots I’ve ever read & I say that with a big smile. It could easily have ended up leaving readers in head-scratching confusion. Instead it’s a clever, multi-layered story that keeps you gripped & guessing right up to the final page.
The roots of the story began in “MemoRandom” which was more of a police procedural. This devotes equal time to Julia’s investigation & political corruption in the Swedish government. There is a large cast of returning characters, many of whom remain unburdened by trivial things like ethics. With few exceptions, these are people who take self-preservation to new heights. Lies, secret agendas, old debts & shifting alliances are gradually revealed as the story lines intersect. Think you’ve got it figured out? Ha! Just wait ’til you turn the next page.
The crew of despicables are offset by several characters you’ll cheer & fear for. Julia is a smart, perceptive woman who slowly realizes she has no idea who to trust. Amante is a man tortured by what he saw on Lampedusa while working for the EU & remains somewhat of an enigma. Atif is a part time gangster with dangerous ties who just wants to save a little girl he loves more than life. And David remains the damaged hero, a man who realized too late the ramifications of his actions. None of them are lily-white & some have done terrible things. But all have a moral line in the sand that is sadly lacking in people they’re forced to deal with.
It’s an intelligent, fast paced read that is hard to put down & you may be surprised by the time you get all the answers. No doubt this can be enjoyed as a stand alone but I highly recommend reading “MemoRandom” first to fully grasp all the intricate connections between the characters. There are a couple in particular I’ve become quite fond of & here’s hoping they pop up again in another book.