The Bomber

The Bomber

4.0 3
by Liza Marklund

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It is December, early in the morning. Swedish Journalist Annika Bengtzon is asleep when the call comes in. Within minutes she is at the site of a nightmare. A bomb has destroyed Stockholm's Olympic arena. Annika has a hunch the blast isn't terrorism. But, if she closes in on that truth, she may well end up on the Bomber's list of victims.See more details below


It is December, early in the morning. Swedish Journalist Annika Bengtzon is asleep when the call comes in. Within minutes she is at the site of a nightmare. A bomb has destroyed Stockholm's Olympic arena. Annika has a hunch the blast isn't terrorism. But, if she closes in on that truth, she may well end up on the Bomber's list of victims.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The problem with a lot of thrillers is that the main characters seem to exist in a world in which thriller novels don't exist, so suspicious actions that send off loud alarm bells in the average reader's mind are invariably rationalized or ignored by the protagonists. So it is in this by-the-numbers tale, in which Annika Bengtzon, crime editor for the Stockholm tabloid Kv llspressen, investigates the bombing of the Olympic venue at Victoria Stadium, where the body of Christina Furhage, head of the committee organizing the Stockholm Games, has been literally blown to bits. Balancing the demands of her family and those of her job, pumping her police contact for information and trying to decide how much of it to publish while barely holding her own in the petty squabbles that flare up daily in the newsroom, Annika digs into Christina's past to find death threats, a hidden marriage and the underhanded way in which she got her job. And when a second bomb goes off, you can bet that Annika will be targeted by the killer, whom readers will have no problem recognizing. The translation by Kajsa von Hofsten is smooth and precise, and while there's an interesting examination of what women like Christina and Annika go through in a world run by men, it's undercut by backlash if the female characters aren't neglecting their families or snapping at their children, they're insane. And while Marklund draws an accurate picture of the pressures and responsibilities of a reporter's job and life, except for the Stockholm setting and a series of unattributed first-person essays whose provenance is deliberately misleading, there's little that makes this Swedish bestseller special. (May) Forecast: This international hot property is already a bestseller in Denmark, Finland and Norway, and will soon appear in Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Japan and Spain; international film rights have been optioned by Sweetwater. But despite European raves, the title may get lost in the shuffle on this side of the Atlantic. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A bomb explodes in the recently constructed Olympic village in Stockholm just months before the Summer Games are set to begin. Annika Bengtzon, recently promoted to crime editor for Kvallspressen, isn't convinced that this is a terrorist act. Her sources indicate that the bombing, which caused the death of an unidentified woman, is more likely the work of one individual. Like many intrepid reporters before her, Annika shrugs aside carping from her underlings and complaints from her husband to pursue the story. The author's background as a journalist is evident in Annika's fascinating search, which is artfully interspersed with chapters that delve into the mind of a mysterious other. The Bomber is touted as having been on the best seller list for a year in Sweden. Whether the novel will be a hit with American readers remains to be seen, though it will definitely appeal to fans of Patricia Cornwell and Jan Burke. Recommended for all public libraries. Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Routine woman-in-periler ("the most successful book ever published in Sweden," we're told) pits an aggressive journalist against a mad bomber haunting Stockholm's Olympic Village. Nothing keeps Annika Bengtzon, workaholic crime editor for a scrappy tabloid, from a story. Though married to kindly Thomas, who heads an organization of labor unions, and the mother of two perfect children, Bengtzon rushes out to cover the vile and the violent on Stockholm's mean streets. When a bomb blows out half of the Olympic stadium, Annika cleverly pumps her taxi driver for info and beats the competition in discovering that a taxi driver had been injured in the blast—an important clue, it turns out, when pieces of the bombing's single victim are assembled and identified as Christina Furhage, the glamorous, high-profile head of Stockholm's Olympic Committee. While some suspect the bomber is a terrorist, Bengtzon gets a tip that the stadium's security alarms had been circumvented before the bomb went off. Not only could the bomber have been someone within the Olympic organization, but the explosion may have been a cover-up for Furhage's murder. Bengtzon's take on the story creates clashes with her colleagues, whose jealousies and petty rivalries are obviously intended to support first-novelist and reporter Marklund's feminist subtext: no matter how far women rise in the various social hierarchies, the slights, snubs, and private passions they suffer always seem worse than those of men. After some nasty secrets in Furhage's past come to light, the bomber strikes again, then kidnaps Bengtzon, wires her with explosives, and sits her down at a laptop so that (preposterous as it sounds) she will writethe truth about the bomber's life and motives. A few pleasantly different Swedish details (e.g., you can buy Christmas glogg, a nonalcoholic mulled wine, from street vendors) in a competent page-turner that moves fast to a clumsy end.

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Product Details

Atria Books
Publication date:
Annika Bengtzon Series, #4
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt


The woman who was about to die stepped warily out of the doorway and quickly glanced about her. The stairwell behind her lay in darkness; she hadn't switched on the light on her way down. In her pale coat, she was a ghostly apparition in the shadows of the entryway. She hesitated before stepping out onto the pavement, as if suspecting she was being watched. She took a couple of quick breaths, and for a few moments the white mist of her exhalation hovered around her head like a halo. Then she straightened the strap of her shoulder bag and took a firm grip of the handle of her briefcase. With hunched shoulders, she walked toward Götgatan, taking quick, quiet steps. It was bitterly cold; a biting wind cut through her clothes. She sidestepped an icy patch and for a second was balancing on the curb. Then she hurried away from the streetlight and into the darkness. The sounds of the night were muffled: the sighing of a ventilation system, the yelling of some drunken youths, a faraway siren.

The woman's stride was confident and determined. She exuded assurance and expensive perfume. When her cellphone suddenly rang, she was completely taken aback. Freezing in mid-step, she quickly looked behind her. She bent down to lean the briefcase against her leg. While she rummaged in her handbag, her whole being positively oozed annoyance. She fished out her phone and put it to her ear. Despite the darkness and the shadows, her reaction could not be misjudged. Her irritation turned to surprise, then to anger, and finally, fear.

When she finished the call, the woman stood still for a few seconds, phone in hand. She bent her head, seemingly lost in thought. A policecar drove slowly past. The woman looked up at it, watchful, following it with her gaze. She made no attempt to stop it.

Then she appeared to make up her mind. She turned around and started walking back the way she had come, past the dark doorway and up to the crossing at the corner of Katarina Bangata. While waiting for a night bus to drive past, she lifted her head and followed the street with her eyes, past Vintertullstorget and across Sickla Canal. Floating high above it lay the main Olympic arena, Victoria Stadium, where the Summer Olympics would open in seven months' time.

After the bus passed by, the woman crossed Ringvägen and started walking along Katarina Bangata. Her face was expressionless; her hurried steps testified to how cold she felt. She took the footbridge across the canal and entered the Olympic compound via the media village. With sharp and somewhat jerky movements, she hurried toward the stadium. She chose the route along the water's edge, although it was a longer and colder walk: A freezing wind blew in from the sea. But she did not wish to be seen. She repeatedly stumbled in the dense darkness.

When she reached the post office and the pharmacy, she turned up toward the training area and ran the last few hundred yards to the arena. By the time she reached the main entrance, she was out of breath as well as angry. She pulled the door open and stepped into the darkness.

"Tell me what you want, and be quick about it," she said with a cold look at the person who appeared from the shadows.

She saw the raised hammer but had no time to be afraid.

The first blow landed on her left eye.


Just behind the upper fence lay a huge anthill. As a child, I used to study it with utter concentration. I would stand so close that the insects were constantly crawling on my legs. Sometimes I followed a single ant from the grass in front of the house, across the gravel road, along the sandbank, and up to the anthill. There I would steel my gaze so as not to lose sight of the insect, but I always did. Other ants would catch my attention. When they became too numerous, my focus would splinter into so many pieces that I lost patience.

Sometimes I would put a lump of sugar on the hill. The ants loved my gift, and I smiled while they poured over it and pulled it down into the depth of the hill. In the autumn, when days grew colder and the ants slowed down, I would stir the hill with a stick to wake them up again. The grown-ups were angry when they saw what I was doing. They said that I was sabotaging the work of the ants and had ruined their home. To this day, I remember the feeling of injustice. I meant no harm. I just wanted a bit of fun. I wanted to rouse the little creatures.

My game with the ants haunted me in my dreams. My fascination turned into an unspeakable fear of their crawling. In my adult life, I have never been able to bear seeing more than three insects at a time, of whatever kind. As soon as I'm unable to take them all in, panic starts building up. My phobia came into being the moment I discovered the parallel between myself and the little insects.

I was young and still actively searching for answers to my condition, building theories in my mind, trying them out against each other in different problems I would formulate. That life could be arbitrary was not part of my worldview. Something had created me. I was not to be the judge of what that something was: chance, fate, evolution, or possibly God.

That life could be without meaning, however, I considered likely, and this filled me with sorrow and rage. If our time on earth had no purpose, then our lives appeared to be an exercise in irony. Someone put us here to study us as we made war, crawled around, suffered, and struggled. At times this Someone would confer a reward on us at random -- much like putting a lump of sugar on an anthill -- and watch our joy and despair with the same indifference.

My certainty grew with the years. In the end, I realized that it makes no difference whether there is a higher meaning to my life or not. Even if there is, I am not supposed to know of it here and now. If there were answers to be found, I would already know what they were, and since I don't, it makes no difference however much I think about it.

This has given me some measure of peace of mind.

Copyright © 1998 by Liza Marklund

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