Lime’s Photograph was written by Danish thriller writer Leif Davidsen in 1998, and won the Nordic Glass Key in 1999. It was preceded as winner of this prestigious award by Jo Nesbo’s The Bat and followed by Hakan Nesser’s Carambole [Hour of The Wolf].
Peter Lime is a Danish photographer, a paparazzo, living happily in Madrid with his Spanish wife and daughter. One day he “executes a hit” getting a photo of a married Spanish government minister and a much younger Italian film star, and shortly after that he is visited by Clara Hoffmann, from the Danish Security police, about another photograph he took many years ago. Peter’s life is tragically turned upside down and his story is told in a dramatic first person narrative which despite the book’s length [371 pages] works well for several reasons. Firstly the author seems to care deeply about his character and despite his profession Peter Lime is a protagonist with whom the reader can develop some empathy. Secondly the book educates the reader as we are given a lot of information about Europe, General Franco, Spain, ETA, the IRA, Denmark, Germany, the fall of the GDR, and the New Russia. Thirdly although the book was written back in 1998 we get some hints as to the causes of the failure of European Union experiment.
Copenhagen had been designated Cultural Capital of Europe and as happened in Madrid, certain creative personalities had taken this opportunity to milk the coffers of the European Union, Denmark and Copenhagen.
The plot is predictable, but this reader despite spotting the villain very early on, enjoyed being taken along Peter’s difficult path to the truth. There is a particularly dramatic description of bullfighting, which occurs probably deliberately during a discussion about Franco’s Spain, and when Peter draws a comparison with the German Democratic Republic. The narrative will take Peter to Berlin, and on to Moscow for a tense climax.
“The Caudillo’s vision was right. Spain had to follow its own course for many years in order to emerge from its past unscathed.” You could hear the echo of servants of servants under other dictatorships. From Stasi informers in the former GDR to fascist executioners in many Latin American countries.
Even Denmark’s utopian social democracy comes in for some criticism.
We pay for our social tranquility. We pacify them [the forgotten third of society] with welfare handouts.
Leif Davidsen’s clever blending of fiction and real events tells the story of Europe in the later part of the 20th century through Peter Lime’s life from the leftist communes of the 1970s, the democratisation of Spain, on to the collapse of Communism and to the establishment of a new order in Russia. Lime’s Photograph, is a grown up thriller that reminds me a little of the works of Eric Ambler, high praise and therefore I am not surprised it won the Nordic Glass Key.