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.