An Ewart Grens Thriller #1
Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom
Translated from the Swedish by Elizabeth Clark Wessel
Quercus, December 2017
The authors, a crime reporter and an ex-convict, concentrate their efforts on grim, noir fiction. And Pen 33 does not stray from the mold. Part of the Detective Superintendent Ewert Grens series, the theme of the novel is pedophilia. It centers on Bernt Lund, who escapes from prison while serving time for the brutal rape and murder of two very young girls, and repeats the crime on the six-year-old daughter of Fredrik Steffansson while free.
What results from this act is questioned by the authors. To begin with, the victim’s father shoots Lund. The prosecutor pleads for a life sentence for murder; the defense attorney pleads self-defense on the theory that it was not an act of revenge but prevented Lund from committing similar acts on other children (he was already staking out other girls at day care centers). Hero or murderer? That is a basic question asked by the authors, who go on to demonstrate other consequences when Steffansson is initially acquitted.
Unlike the United States, where double jeopardy would apply (this anomaly goes unexplained), the prosecution appeals the verdict and Steffansson is sentenced to ten years and is incarcerated in the very prison from which Lund escaped. The events and consequences resulting from Steffansson’s shooting affect the entire country, resulting in riots, and raises basic questions regarding duty, the law, and what people are capable of. What is questionable is how the authors choose to end the book. While certainly dramatic, one could envision other solutions. Nonetheless, the novel is recommended.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2017.