Posted: October 16, 2014 in Book Awards, review, Scandinavia, Sweden

borderline 2014It seems like yesterday but it is in fact over three years since translator Neil Smith was kind enough to reply to a post about Liza Marklund with a very informative sketch of the future plans for the Annika Bengtzon series. Read it here.

Since then I have reviewed Last Will, Lifetime and The Long Shadow and have just finished reading Borderline, the 9th Annika Bengtzon book.

If anyone asked me to recommend a real “page-turner” thriller novel I would without any hesitation suggest Borderline [Du Gamla, du fria in the original Swedish, which means Set You Free]. This is Liza Marklund back to her very best, ably assisted by Neil Smith, because Borderline reads as if originally written in English.

Annika is back with her former husband after they have spent three years in the USA, but the philandering Thomas is with an EU delegation in Kenya advising on the strengthening of  frontiers, in reality trying to stop the flow of people into Europe from Africa. But while he is lining up the attractive blonde English representative, Catherine Wilson, as his next conquest the delegation are kidnapped near the Somali border.

The narrative switches back and forth between Thomas and his fellow delegates suffering barbaric treatment from their captors somewhere along the Somali-Kenya frontier; and Stockholm where an important and ironic plot line involves the brutal stabbings of  Swedish women by their former partners, or possibly by a serial killer. Women in this story are treated appallingly in both the Northern European utopia, and the East African dystopia.

‘Oil tankers worth hundreds of millions of dollars float past the coast of Somalia every day, and starving people can do nothing but stand on the beach and watch them.’

The negotiations for the release of Thomas are conducted by his boss Jimmy Halenius, who assists Annika to cope with  the terrible situation. How does she tell her children Ellen and Kalle their father is in grave danger? Annika also juggles her strained relationships with her mother, her sister, and best friend Anne Snapphane none of whom are particularly helpful. 

At the offices of Kvallpressen editor in chief Anders Schyman realises that his news editor Patrik Nilsson is lowering the whole tone of the business with ridiculous lead stories about people losing  control of an alien hand. But then seeking the lowest common denominator is what modern media is all about. 

Liza Marklund imparts a lot of detailed information about the media, banking systems, hostage negotiations, and the outcomes of historic hostage situations, but it is  done quite naturally within the narrative, and not in the laundry list method used by some authors. Her technique of switching back and forth between Stockholm and Somalia/Kenya increases the tension and is handled with some skill. Borderline is a very good thriller, with a good plot, great characters, especially Annika, and an almost live documentary atmosphere that makes the reader keep turning those pages until the conclusion. 

‘The kidnappers have plenty of weapons. It’s striking how many hostages end up getting shot. And Somalia is a country where amputations form part of the legal system. It’s traditional that all the external parts of young girls’ genitals are cut off………’

She turned on the cold tap in the basin and let the water run over her wrists. She felt like crying, but was too angry. There had to be limits. She didn’t want to hear about mutilated little girls. She needed help, but not at any cost.

 I feel any violent events discussed in the book such as the Rwandan Genocide, and the beheading of Daniel Pearl, are necessary to create the atmosphere, and mentioned in a factual way without any embellishments.      

  1. […] At Crime Scraps, Norm reviews Liza Marklund’s latest Annika Bengtzon thriller, Borderline which involves international intrigue and a hostage situation. Does it make me a bad person to be pleased that Annika’s annoying ex is a hostage? It sounds very good (and not just because Thomas is in trouble.) […]

  2. kathy d. says:

    I do like Annika Bengtzon, and just watched four dvd’s of TV episodes featuring her. Very good.
    However, this violence makes me stop and pause about reading this book. I’ll have to see. If it’s at the library, I’ll get it.

  3. Norman Price says:

    Kathy, I agree there is only so much violence and unhappiness I can take in books. That is why I am digging back into the Golden Age for some gentler murder reading.
    I do like Annika Bengtzon very much and find myself shouting at her in the books. Usually “Don’t do it Annika!” “Dump him he isn’t worth it!” and other valuable advice. 🙂

  4. kathy d. says:

    I’m so glad you’re shouting advice to the sometimes common-sense-lacking Annika Bengtzon.
    I watched an episode of Inspector Lewis last night, and a woman police detective walked into a dark building by herself, and kept walking through dark hallways and rooms — alone. This stuff
    drives mystery fans crazy. We all know that it foreshadows disaster — and it did.

    I just read “The Rosie Project,” a delightful, light book with much humor about a geneticist with a lot of personal problems who is looking for The Perfect Mate, and has a long list of requirements. Then he meets a woman who is totally unconventional — and is smitten. I laughed a lot.

  5. […] has been reviewed at Crime Scraps Review (Norman) and Euro Crime (Michelle […]

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