From the Publisher
“An addictive thriller.”—Raleigh Times-Dispatch
“Laced with irony and satire . . . Reminiscent of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson in its toughness . . . Persson does a fine job of pitting one desperate soul against another in a philosophically charged tale worthy of Ingmar Bergman—but with lots more guns.”—Kirkus (starred)
“A brilliant political thriller.”—Der Tagesspiegel
“One of the best Swedish crime novels of all time.”—Expressen
“This is not only a compelling crime story to be read without stopping until the last page. It is not only an unforgettable tale with a ferocious and bitter unexpected ending. It is much more. This is a masterpiece.”—Il Sole 24 Ore
“A teeth-gritting political thriller . . . Authentic with silent anger, tough and utterly haunting.”—Berliner Morgenpost
“One of the most exhaustive investigations ever to have been written about. A plot full of suspense, a great adventure, and a philosophical view of the dark and painful sides of life.” —Il Giornale di Vicenza
“Funny, sharp, thrilling, and entertaining. Indeed, you almost think it’s too good to be true, at least until you start reading and are convinced.”—Kristeligt Dagblad
"Leif GW Persson's big lush novel is a tale of mystery and intrigue and murder. Mostly set in Sweden before the collapse of the Soviet Union it begins with the body of an American falling from a building. Was it an accident or a suicide? Surely it couldn't have been a murder, or so the police believe. Enter Lars Johansson, a police official known as 'a real policeman.' His interest in the dead American will take him to New York and to the FBI academy in Quantico, and will reveal Cold War machinations from a generation earlier that are connected to the man who fell from the building. For Johansson, entering this case is like entering a hall of mirrors within a maze, where international scheming, secret police, including one with bizarre sexual proclivities, and even the assassination of a prime minister, are all connected one way or the other to that American. From a country known for terrific crime novelists, Sweden's great crime writer Leif GW Persson brilliantly takes the reader into a world of fascinating mystery and secrets."
Read an Excerpt
“Approximately five minutes before eight last Friday evening the aforementioned Krassner fell from his room on the sixteenth floor in that student skyscraper up on Valhallavägen. He was subleasing it—it seems some international housing agency for students arranged it. Got the name of it in my papers. Anyway,” said Jarnebring and looked at the ceiling while trying to collect his thoughts.
“Murder, suicide, accident,” said Johansson. “What’s the problem?”
“Most likely suicide,” said Jarnebring. “Among other things he left behind a letter. Tech called this morning and let it be known that his prints are on the letter. Right where they should be if he’d written it himself.”
“You mean the corpse’s fingerprints,” said Johansson. “You mean that the corpse’s prints are where they ought to be, but how do you know that the corpse’s prints are his?”
“They’re his prints,” said Jarnebring. “I already got that on the fax from the embassy yesterday.”
“They had Krassner’s fingerprints? Does he have a record?”
Jarnebring shook his head.
“No, but they seem to have taken prints on almost everyone over in the States. They’d taken his when he was working extra at check-in at some airport. They haven’t said a peep about whether or not he might have some criminal past. Seems to have been a completely ordinary gloomy bastard.”
“Suicide,” repeated Johansson. “What’s the problem?”
Jarnebring shrugged his shoulders.
“If there is one,” he said. “For one thing I don’t know who he is, although I’ve asked the embassy to help me with that. They promised to talk with the police where he was living and find out if they knew him.”
“Okay,” said Johansson.
“Then he seems to have been running in and out where he was living.”
Jarnebring quickly recounted Krassner’s movements and his own conversation with Professor Lidman.
“Lidman says that this isn’t at all uncommon. Goes around happy and energetic and smiles at everyone he meets—smiling depression I guess it’s called. And then just bang, no, that’s enough now, now I’m going to take my life. Can be quite irrational at the same time as they seem completely normal.”
“I’ll buy that,” said Johansson, who’d had a cousin who had left his youngest daughter’s birthday party in the best spirits to go out to the garage and hang himself.
“And then there’s a shoe,” said Jarnebring and recounted his and Hultman’s theories without mentioning the latter by name.
“Seems highly plausible,” said Johansson. “I’m in agreement with you, suicide.”
He glanced furtively at his watch. The shoe bumped against a window ledge or a balcony railing or perhaps even a birdhouse that some biology student has nailed up outside his little window, thought Johansson and smiled.
“Sure,” said Jarnebring. “Up until yesterday afternoon when that damn shoe started haunting me again.” He nodded at Johansson and seemed both serious and sincerely concerned.
“How so?” said Johansson.
“Have you ever seen this rag here?” replied Jarnebring, handing over the August issue of the American monthly magazine Soldier of Fortune.
“Soldier of Fortune,” said Johansson, making a grimace at the camouflage- wearing characters rushing across the cover against heavy gunfire.
“Isn’t that one of those American neo-Nazi rags?”
“Yes,” said Jarnebring. “It was one of the younger officers in the department here who tipped me off. There was a whole pile in their break room. Soldier of Fortune, The Minuteman, Guns & Ammo, The Survivalist,” he explained. “That kind of American extreme right-wing rag aimed at gun nuts and old Klan members and the type who just want to go out and make war in general, not exactly socialist rags, if you know what I mean.”
No, thought Johansson, for how would that sort of thing wind up in a break room in a Swedish police station?
“Contains a ton of advertisements for weapons and survival gear and what you should know if the Russkies come, on how you become a mercenary and how you can fuck with the police and how you evade taxes.Yes, every kind of shit imaginable,” concluded Jarnebring.
“Where does the shoe come in?” asked Johansson judiciously.
“If you look in the ad section, page eighty-nine. There’s an ad for a company which is called StreetSmart, shortened SS.”
Johansson had already found the ad in question; it offered all the necessities for the person who wanted to survive in the “jungle where we humans are forced to live.” For reasons that, considering the context, didn’t appear particularly murky, the ad had the same typeface as the two “S”s that the German Nazi Schutzstaffel had worn on their uniform lapels.
“I still don’t understand,” Johansson persisted.
“The damn shoe,” said Jarnebring, holding out a strong left boot of brown leather with a high upper. He looked almost cheerful. “The same damn shoe that the mutt took on the head, although surely that must have been a coincidence,” he thought out loud.
Jarnebring pressed his thumb against the sole, and at the same time he tugged hard with his right hand against the sturdy heel. Out fell a metal-colored key, and after that floated a small scrap of paper the size of a business card.
“Open sesame,” said Jarnebring with a satisfied smile. “Shoe of the well-known brand StreetSmart with a hollow heel.”
“The key appears to be for a safe-deposit box or some type of safe, most likely back in the States,” Jarnebring continued, holding it up. “The embassy is working on that too, so I’m taking it easy.”
“I see,” said Johansson. What should he say? He’d heard and seen worse. “What was in the other shoe?”
Jarnebring shook his head.
“That one was empty,” he said. “I’m guessing that he was right-handed.”
Johansson nodded. That seems plausible, he thought.
“Don’t you want to know what was on the paper?” Jarnebring looked at him expectantly.
Johansson showed a poker face and shrugged his shoulders. Jarnebring pushed the paper over and Johansson read the two lines of handwritten text.
An honest Swedish Cop. Police Superintendent Lars M. Johansson
Wolmar Yxkulls Gata 7 A, 116 50 Stockholm.
Johansson looked at the paper again. He was holding it carefully by the edges between the nails of his thumb and index finger, from old habit. Although this time it appeared to be unnecessary. Judging by the grayblack specks, someone had already dusted it for fingerprints. Like a calling card, thought Johansson, about five by eight centimeters.
Folded in the middle. He looked at Jarnebring, who wore the same expression that his children used to have when they were little and it was Christmas Eve.
“It’s someone trying to pull our legs,” said Johansson. “My leg,” he corrected.
“I thought so too. At first I thought so. Now I’m pretty sure it’s Krassner who wrote what’s there.”
“Tell me,” said Johansson, leaning back in his chair. At the same time he couldn’t help sneaking a glance at the little scrap of paper. At first, Jarnebring had thought along the same lines as Johansson. When, after duly efficient investigations, he found out that the same police trainee, Oredsson, who had fetched Krassner’s shoes and clothes and left them in his office had also been one half of the “first patrol car on the scene,” as well as the half that had placed the aforementioned shoe in its plastic bag, sealed the bag, and sent it with the hearse to the forensic-medicine office, the matter was signed, sealed, and delivered. I’ll boil that bastard for glue, thought Jarnebring, and ten minutes later Oredsson and Stridh were each sitting on a chair in the corridor outside Jarnebring’s office, and it was Oredsson who got to come in first.