Archive for July 30, 2011

The US title of this book Box 21 is far more appropriate than the UK title The Vault, and therefore I will use that when necessary. 

I am not going to attempt much of a plot synopsis, because Box 21 is a book that needs to be a journey of discovery. It is a very dark journey, and if you are like me you will be angry when you have finished. Not angry with the book, but with the events in the story. I found myself hoping that I would be wrong about the conclusion, and shouting with frustration when I was right. 

In a Stockholm fifth floor apartment with electronic locks are two Lithuanian girls forced into prostitution. One Lydia Grajauskas has been whipped by a man she calls Dimitri-Bastard-Pimp. While the other Alena Sljusareva hides naked in another room, and runs away when police officers, Ewert Grens, Sven Sundqvist and Bengt Nordwall arrive.

Meanwhile junkie Odeus Hilding is desperate for money so he cuts speed with washing powder, and sells it to the wrong girl. Enforcer Jochum Lang , just released from prison, is sent by the Yugoslav mafia to punish Hilding, for cutting their product. After overdosing Hilding is in the hospital where Lydia has been sent for treatment for her injuries. Aging difficult detective Ewert Grens has been waiting to get Jochum Lang put away for a long sentence ever since Lang was responsible for a dreadful accident twenty five years earlier that left Anni, Grens’s wife in a nursing home, and Grens deeply traumatized. Lydia Grajauskas and Ewert Grens will both make very difficult decisions as the situation unfolds.

‘Alena, I am absolutely sure. Someone has to know. This must never happen again.’

I read Box 21 very quickly because it is written in a matter of fact style with the sort of details that draw you in to the action. The characters may be deeply flawed but they are interesting and you turn the pages wanting to discover their fate. If you read crime fiction because you want to see justice done this is not the book for you. If you like books that are truthful, very sad, and don’t pull their punches then get hold of this superb example of Swedish crime fiction that jumped straight in to my top reads of the year. 

‘I saw you in the flat.’

‘It was very chaotic.’

‘I would know you were Swedish anyway, even if I’d never met you. I’ve got to know what Swedish men look like.’

The authors Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom have recently won the CWA International Dagger with their thriller Three Seconds. Anders Roslund is the founder and former head of Culture News on Swedish Television, and a prize winning investigative reporter at Rapport [Sweden’s equivalent of CNN]. Borge Hellstrom is an ex-criminal who helps rehabiltate young offenders and drug addicts, and a founder of KRIS-a non-profit association which assists released prisoners during their first period of freedom.