Originally published in Sweden in 1999, the first in Dahl's acclaimed Intercrime trilogy focuses on the A-Unit, a freshly formed elite team of six mavericks and misfits from various police units. Typical is Paul Hjelm, who was about to lose his job for the unorthodox handling of a hostage situation. The author artfully fills in the disparate backgrounds of the other four men and one woman, each of whom emerges as a substantial, nuanced character. Plot, though, is not Dahl's strong suit. A less than compelling story line, full of Stockholm street names, leaves the reader floundering in clueless murders for too long, burdened with extended lists of possibilities that don't pan out and a lot of talk about corporations and their board members, some of whom are thought to be possible targets of the media-dubbed "Power Murderer." Eventually, clues come pouring in and the pace picks up. (July)
This exciting debut in a three-book series follows Paul Hjelm, a Swedish detective considered a hero by the media and a loose cannon by Internal Affairs. After his mostly successful resolution of a hostage situation, Hjelm is told to clean out his office—but instead of losing his job, he is asked to join the A-Unit, a new, elite law enforcement group. Their first investigation is to solve the killings of Sweden's top business leaders. The clues are few but have the A-Unit questioning the Russian Mafia, booze smugglers, and their own xenophobic tendencies. VERDICT Nunnally has smoothly translated the novel from Swedish to English, although it is easy for a reader unfamiliar with Sweden and its capital, Stockholm, to get confused by city and business names. The intriguing plot can be complicated at times, but Dahl neatly ties up all of the loose ends in a symmetrical exposition. Fans of hard-boiled detective and Swedish crime novels will enjoy this. [See Prepub Alert, 1/21/11.]—Jennifer Funk, McKendree Univ. Lib., Lebanon, IL
An elite team of misfit police officers band together to stop a serial killer.
Detective Inspector Paul Hjelm never intends to be a hero when he diffuses a hostage situation in his local precinct, but the media can't help but latch on to the story. Hjelm thinks the situation ironic, given the fact that his wife Cilla and their children look at him as if they could see right through him. Hjelm is on the verge of being dismissed from his post for acting outside protocol when Detective Superintendent Jan-Olov Hultin taps him to join a special targeted group which Hultin, for lack of a better term, has called the A-Unit. As Hjelm is introduced to his new colleagues, he sees his own overworked, outsider perspective reflected in their tired faces. Hultin tasks the team with investigating a series of murders of local businessmen, seemingly unrelated but all bearing the mark of cool and calculated executions. Hjelm thinks he's developed a promising lead by investigating the Order of the Mimir, a local group echoing the secrecy of the Freemasons, but his astute cohort brings in equally likely leads that implicate everyone from a young male-prostitution ring to the Russian Mafia. The investigation slowly devolves into a study not only of the facts of the case but of the characters of the investigators themselves; the darkness they face within the mystery has them all questioning their own reasons to be.
Thoughtfully haunting and sometimes beautifully written, the first of Hjelm's cases to be translated into English is likely to resonate with readers of the Stieg Larsson trilogy.
From the Publisher
“Absorbing. . . . A dark, tense thriller.”
“Terrific. . . . Full of twists and turns, blind alleys and sudden assaults, procedural hassles and stakeouts. ”
“Thoughtfully haunting and sometimes beautifully written, the first of Hjelm’s cases to be translated into English is likely to resonate with readers of the Stieg Larsson trilogy.”
“Mystery devotees who loved Mankell’s Kurt Wallander, and crime-fiction ‘lifers’ who still treasure Sjowall’s and Wahloo’s Martin Beck, will want to add Paul Hjelm to their short lists of international favorites.”
“A truly fine crime novel.”
—The Advocate (Baton Rouge)
“[A] superb police procedural. . . . Dahl has created a brilliant character and a terrific story, and should that not be enough, this is a classic cop-shop tale of the old school.”
—The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“Most of the fun of Misterioso comes from the follow-the-power, follow-the-money games played by Hjelm and his associates. And while Dahl clearly sees detective fiction as having the ability to tackle hard-hitting issues of the day, the mystery’s solution isn’t lacking in good old-fashioned puzzle intrigue, either.”
—The Portland Mercury
“A unique and wonderful book. It is part mystery, part police procedural, part existential philosophy, and part comedy. There is something so distinctive about this book that it resists categorization. . . . There is not a dull moment. It seems like the Scandinavians are having a true renaissance in crime writing and Arne Dahl is right at the top.”
“An exciting debut. . . . Fans of hard-boiled detective and Swedish novels will enjoy this.”
Read an Excerpt
Something was forcing its way through the winter.
He couldn’t put his ﬁnger on it, but there was something. Maybe a warming breeze, a ﬂicker of light smack in the middle of the mass of gray clouds, or possibly just the fact that he heard a splash rather than a crunch when he stepped in the puddle that all winter long had encircled his personal parking space—the one that still bore his name.
He paused for a moment and squinted up at the morning cloud cover. It looked the same as usual, hovering there like a virtual ceiling of security above the bank, bidding him welcome.
The same silence as always.
A short distance away was the little town, undisturbed, sending up only one sign of life: ﬁne tendrils of smoke from chimneys. He heard the repetitive cheeping of the marsh tit and saw it peek from its nest just under the eaves. Then he locked the car and strode the few yards to the small, modest door of the employees’ entrance. He took out his even more modest key ring and one by one opened the three deadbolts.
Inside the bank ofﬁce it smelled like an ordinary Monday, a bit stuffy from the weekend, but Lisbet would soon air it out when she arrived second, as usual, bringing her ﬂood of cheerful chatter.
He himself was always the ﬁrst to arrive; that was the routine.
Everything was exactly the same as always.
That was what he told himself several times: Everything is exactly the same as always.
He may have said it once too often.
He stood at his teller’s window and pulled out the drawer. He took out an oblong gilded case and cautiously weighed one of the long, bristled darts in his hand. His special weapon.
Not many people, even among the initiated, really knew how a dart was supposed to look. His darts were long—specially designed to four and three-quarters inches, almost two and three quarters of which were a long point that always surprised his opponents, and very short, bristly ﬂights.
He picked up the three darts and slipped around the dividing wall into the ofﬁce interior. There was the board. Without looking down, he took up position with the tips of his toes on the little black throw line exactly seven feet nine and one-quarter inches from the dartboard and rhythmically ﬂung the three darts. All three stuck in the large bed of the 1. He was just warming up.
Everything landed where it should.
Everything was as it should be.
He clasped his hands and stretched them outward until they made a light cracking sound, then let his ﬁ ngers ﬂutter freely in the air for several seconds. Again he took the key ring out of his jacket pocket, swung back around the dividing wall to the public area of the bank, went over to the vault, and unlocked it. The vault door opened slowly, ponderously, with a muted groan.
It sounded the way it always did.
He carried a box containing thick bundles of banknotes to his teller’s station and spread them out over the work surface. He studied them for a moment, just as he always did.
Soon Lisbet would come drifting in through the employees’ entrance and start babbling on about her family; then Albert would arrive, clearing his throat in a slightly superior way and nodding stifﬂy; and last would be Mia, dark, silent, and reserved, peering out from under her bangs. Soon the smell of Lisbet’s coffee would waft away any remaining stufﬁness and ﬁ ll the ofﬁce with an air of quiet humanity.
Then the scattered knots of customers would appear: the farmers fumbling with ancient bankbooks, housewives meticulously recording their meager withdrawals, pensioners struggling to avoid resorting to cat food.
This was where he had been happy for so long. But the town was getting smaller and smaller, the customers fewer and fewer.
Everything is exactly the same as always, he thought.
He went back around the dividing wall to play a quick round of 501. From 501 down to zero. A couple of triple-20s and some single bulls sped up the countdown. Exactly as always. The darts landed where they were supposed to. The slightly unusual wavering ﬂight, which was the trademark of his darts, made them hit the mark every time. He had 87 points to go when the alarm clock rang.
Still engrossed in the strategy for the last round, he went over to the front door and unlocked it.
Everything was exactly the same as always.
Let’s make it simple, he thought, a simple 15 and a simple 20 and then the one double bull of the morning for 50 points, as the perfect combination: 85. Then only the checkout left, the double ring of the 1. Eighty-seven. No problem. The hard part was putting the third dart in the little black center of the bull’s-eye. A good start to the day.
A good start to a completely ordinary day.
He hit 15 in the outer bed and 20 in the inner, just to make things interesting. The dart teetered at the wire next to the irksome 1, but it held. The wire trembled a bit from the contact. Then the bull’s-eye was left, right in the center. He focused his attention, raised the dart, lined up the ring with the long point, and drew the dart back four inches, exactly at eye level.
The door slammed.
That couldn’t be. It wasn’t right. It was too early. Damn.
He lowered the dart and walked out to the bank ofﬁce.
An enormous, ox-like man was pointing a big, long pistol at him.
He stood there petriﬁed. Everything fell apart. This was wrong, this was so wrong. Not now. Not now, please. The ﬂoor seemed to fall away from under him.
The man came up to the teller’s window and held out an empty suitcase.
He put down the dart, opened the hatch; stunned, he took the bag.
“Fill it up,” the ox-like man said in heavily accented English.
Quietly and methodically he placed one bundle of banknotes after another into the suitcase. Next to the bag lay the dart with the long point. Thoughts were surging through his mind, helter skelter. Only the bull’s-eye left, he thought. He thought about Lisbet and about nine-thirty, and about a bank door he had unlocked out of old habit. He thought about checking out in the double ring.
The ox-like man lowered the pistol for a moment and looked around nervously.
He thought about his ability to perform his best under extreme pressure.
“Hurry up!” snarled the ox, casting nervous glances out the window. His eyes were very black inside reddish rings.
Bull’s-eye, he thought and grabbed the dart.
Then all that remained was the checkout.