Posted: April 22, 2014 in Book Awards, Historical, review, Scandinavia, spy story, Sweden

41sDxT2PRGL._AA160_perssonFree Falling As If In A Dream subtitled The Story Of A Crime is the third book of a trilogy. The previous books are Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End, and Another Time, Another Life.

I would recommend setting out on the marathon task of reading the lengthy books in order. Although this one can be read as a standalone it won’t be as satisfying because the reader won’t appreciate the way in which the clever jigsaw of a plot all fits neatly together over the three books. Author Leif GW Persson has been an adviser to the Swedish Ministry of Justice and a Professor at Sweden’s National Police Board, he is the country’s foremost expert on crime.


517CY6O6qWLHis crime fiction novels have been winning awards for three decades. In 1982 he won Best Swedish crime fiction novel with The Pillar of Society, in 51l72rqLc6L._AA160_2003 Another Time, Another Life won and in 2010 and 2011 The Dying Detective won Best Swedish novel and the Nordic Glass Key.

His dark humour and biting satire exposes the Swedish state and police force to some close scrutiny and they don’t come out of it very well. His writing style may take some getting used to but his books become addictive. There is a lot of detail, a lot of detail, and sometimes the plot drags as any 500 plus page will in places, but this is compensated by the brilliant characters. Of course his plots are complex and convoluted with lots of minor interesting characters, but characters are in my opinion what makes us read crime fiction, and Free Falling has them in abundance.

“Olof Palme,” said the chief of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Lars Martin Johansson. “Are you familiar with that name, ladies and gentleman.”……………………….

“Olof Palme,” Johansson repeated, his voice now sounding more urgent. “Does that ring any bells?” 

Free Falling As If In A Dream is set during the summer of 2007 and is the story of a secret investigation set up by Lars Martin Johansson into the murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme on Friday 28 February 1986.

Johansson, the detective known as the man who can see round corners, is determined to deal with the unsolved crime which has remained a blot on the record of Sweden and the police force. After all this time is the investigation dead as Anna Holt says like Monty Python’s parrot or is it just a little tired.

Johansson collects around him an elite team of three; Police Superintendent Anna Holt, Detective Chief Inspector Jan Lewin and Detective Chief Inspector Lisa Mattei. The narrative is the story of their lives, their investigations and the backgrounds of suspects and others involved in some way. The book is full of wonderful set piece meetings as Johansson and his team deal with the investigative tracks previously covered by the shoddy investigation years before. A lone crazed assassin, the Kurds and elements of the police had all been suggested as likely perpetrators. 

Evert Backstrom, the horrible misogynist homophobe, now rightly banished to police “lost and found” begins a lone investigation drooling at the thought of reward money he can possibly share with his informant. Backstrom plays a medium size role in the plot and even takes second level when it comes to the level of revulsion as sadistic SePo [secret police] officer Claes Waltin’s appalling life and suspicious death are dissected by the investigators.

But despite the presence of male characters who treat women badly, luckily the more major roles are played by Anna Holt and Lisa Mattei, who both have that interesting blend of brains and beauty and show a competence that shames their male colleagues. It seems at times that they do the work while the men eat, drink, and talk. 

There is one brilliant passage when Johansson goes for a nine course meal with the “special adviser”. 

The special adviser lived in a palatial villa in the Uppland suburb of Djursholm, where the creme de la creme in the vicinity of the royal capital had the highest fat content…………….

“That’s what characrerizes us real Social Democrats. That we have both our hearts and our wallets to the left.”

The special adviser, Sweden’s own Cardinal Richelieu, the prime minister’s top security adviser, the extended arm of power or perhaps simply power?

The two men definitely a couple of crime fiction’s great characters indulge themselves in the meal which begins with finger foods and champagne:

Mostly beluga caviar, duck liver , and quail eggs, and why fritter away your short life on nonessentials?

The subtle mixture of serious social comment, political double dealing, and dark satirical humour makes this an excellent read, and an example of the very best in Swedish crime fiction.

I don’t buy many books in hardback but Leif G.W. Persson is one author for whom I make an exception.

“Guys,” said Mattei, shrugging her shoulders. “There’s only one thing you need them for.”

What has happened to little Lisa? thought Holt. Is she becoming a grown woman?

” But not Johan, exactly, ” said Holt.

“No, not him,” said Mattei. “He’s actually good for several things. You can talk with him, and he’s really good at cleaning and cooking too.”      

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – So many times even a trilogy gets weaker towards the end. It’s very good to hear that hasn’t happened in this case. Some stories are very much worth the investment of time…

  2. kathy d. says:

    Now, this book sounds intriguing. At 500 pages, it is daunting at this point when I’m reading slowly. The earlier books turned me off a bit due to Evert’s misogyny, so I didn’t read them. But since he’s banished and the two main characters are smart women, I’ll give it a try.

    Is the writer’s attitude like Sjowall and Wahloo’s Martin Beck’s?

  3. Norman Price says:

    Margot, this one ties all the lose threads together from the previous books. Although with the trilogy coming in at about 1800 pages you have to have a photographic memory to remember all the characters.

    Kathy, Backstrom does have a role in the book and one of the most amusing passages of the book is when he is sent on a gender sensitivity course. He claims to be a non-drinking vegetarian and also that his friends call him Eve.

    The social comment in the Sjowall and Wahloo books is a bit more cutting, and of course the women, Holt and Mattei, play a much bigger role in Persson’s books than in the male dominated police force of the 1960s and 1970s.

  4. I may get to this one but will leave it a while, having just waded through LINDA. In the end I did enjoy it – though not as much as the second book of the trilogy you are discussing which is the only other one of his books I have read – but it was too long and finishing it felt more like taking medicine towards the end. Not every thought he’s ever had actually needs to get written down in books I can barely hold they weigh so much.

  5. Norman Price says:

    Bernadette, I agree I read them sitting up to a reinforced table able to support the books.
    Persson is definitely an acquired taste, and I would agree that the second in the trilogy Another Time, Another Life is the best translated so far. And judges handily agreed with us as it won the Best Swedish Crime novel and the Nordic Glass Key.

  6. kathy d. says:

    I need to take a speed-reading course, get new glasses and a gadget to prop up the books. How does anyone with aging eyes read these doorstops even if they’re good? I’m determined to read one of Persson’s books.

    The gender sensitivity course sounds like fun.

  7. kathy d. says:

    This dialogue looks too good for me to pass up. One element of a book, which I love is snappy dialogue from smart characters.

  8. […] Freely, As If In A Dream has been reviewed at Crime Scraps (Norman), The Complete Review, International Noir Fiction (Glenn), Euro Crime (Laura […]

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