Posted: November 7, 2012 in review, Scandinavia, Sweden, USA

John Schwarz, a singer on the ferry between Sweden and Finland, loses his temper with a man harassing a pretty woman and kicks him in the head. Detective Ewert Grens sees the victim waiting to make a complaint at the police station. Ewert knows all about serious head injuries as for years he has been visiting the only woman he loved, brain damaged and living in a care home after he had accidentally driven over her head. Ewert Grens orders John Schwarz’s arrest and when he reacts violently they realise there is something strange going on. John Schwarz is not who he says he is, and when they check with Interpol the Swedish police find that his real identity is in fact John Meyer Frey, who died on Death Row in Marcusville, Ohio over six years earlier.

I have really enjoyed Roslund & Hellstrom’s The Vault and Three Seconds, and Cell 8 exhibited so many of the attributes that make the best Swedish crime fiction so good. Cell 8 had great characters like the incorruptible insubordinate Ewert Grens; Cell 8 went into great detail; when the story switched perspectives and time and location [between Stockholm and Ohio] it was to advance the plot and add to the tension. The story had something to lighten the mood a fraction as an antidote to the tension in the platonic relationship between the beautiful young policewoman Hermansson, and the curmudgeonly old Grens. Also I love small American towns and there is a superb analysis of the fictional Marcusville in the book so why did a political thriller that was going into my top ten suddenly fall away in my estimation. 

The book’s message about the death sentence had been made very clearly, the sale had been completed. Then in a ridiculous plot twist at the very end the authors got too clever, and the story lost believability.    


  1. Norman – Oh, I hadn’t gotten to this one, and it’s nice to know I have something good to look forward to reading. Thanks for the fine review.

  2. Maxine says:

    I lost patience with all the moralising in this one, talk about hammering the point home at a very simplistic level! Agree the plot was quite silly, in the end.

  3. Norman Price says:

    Thanks for your comments Margot and Maxine. I have always been against the death penalty [too many miscarriages of justice such as the Christie /Evans case], but sometimes you feel so angry at the actions of criminals that your blood boils. The recent case of that brave lady Tina Nash in Cornwall, who had her eyes gouged out by her violent “boyfriend” makes one wonder if the death sentence should be an option for some particularly horrible crimes.

  4. kathy d. says:

    What an issue! This is a tough one, but in the final analysis I am against the death penalty except for Nazi war criminals who carried out genocide. Friends differ. Some are against its use always; some are for it sometimes.
    But since I oppose murder in general, including in war (except WWII, which had to be fought), I’d be hard-pressed to moralize about if it I accepted it.
    So, life in prison without parole — which is the option here in some states — seems to be an acceptable option. Maximum security here is no picnic. It’s tough. Some prisons here, which face lots of lawsuits, have been cited dozens of times by world human rights organizations for violating basic human rights and treatment of prisoners. There’s mistreatment of prisoners I couldn’t have thought of in my wildest dreams. Lots of prisoners lose their sanity due to these conditions.
    And then there’s the wrongful prosecutions, lack of evidence — or evidence prosecutors don’t show defense attorneys, which is locked up somewhere, lazy attorneys who don’t follow through, lack of funds to pursue evidence, lack of DNA testings, etc.
    Thankfully, the Innocence Project has followed through and gotten many people freed from Death Row, and even prison, by following up on evidence.
    I think of Bill and Camille Crosby who went to a judge and asked that their son’s killed not be executed. The judge complied. Or Matthew Shephard, whose young life was taken because he was gay. His parents asked that his young killers not be executed either. The court complied.
    So I follow their example.

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