From the Publisher
"A nail biter of a book."Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Explosive... Three Seconds does Stieg Larsson one better."Carol Memmott, USA Today"
[A] sprawling and often gripping thriller.... The gritty details of drug dealing, of prison life and of the relations between cops and informants are all rendered with convincing authority in Three Seconds."Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal"
Twisty plot makes for propulsive reading."Entertainment Weekly"
Thrill-a-minute cat and mouse game... a grimly amoral tale."Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review"
The action quickly draws you in and continues to grip you to the final chapters of the novel. The authors have something to say, and Three Seconds proves to be an excellent way of doing it."Summer Moore, AP"
It's like Traffic on the Swedish-Polish border, but everything from the weather to the criminals' hearts is a little colder."People magazine
Ex-con Piet Hoffmann, who for the past nine years has led a double life as a family man and a police snitch infiltrating the Stockholm drug world, takes on his most dangerous assignment yet in Roslund and Hellström's thrilling follow-up to Box 21. Hoffmann must go undercover at Aspsås, a maximum security prison, and take control of the methamphetamine sales so the police can dismantle the spread of drugs from the inside out. The murder of a man during one of Hoffmann's preliminary meetings with the members of Wojtek, the local Polish mafia, threatens the entire plan and puts Det. Supt. Ewert Grens, the returning hero from Box, on the case. Once Hoffmann steps inside the prison walls all hell breaks loose, and he's forced to fend for himself when it appears that everyone on either side of the law wants him dead. The authors ratchet the suspense beautifully right up to the final, inevitable confrontation. (Jan.)
Piet Hoffman is a devoted husband and the father of two young sons. He’s also an ex-con who has been
working undercover for the Stockholm police for nine years. Code named “Paula,” Piet has risen through
the ranks of the Polish mafia and is chosen to lead the Poles’ effort to control the supply of amphetamines
in Sweden’s prisons. To do that, Paula must get himself arrested and sent to a maximum security prison,
wipe out the existing supplier, and keep himself alive until he has all the information needed for the police
to move on the gang. Roslund, a former journalist, and Hellstrom, a former criminal, have concocted a
brilliant thriller that posits a nearly literal invasion of Sweden by East European criminals allied with
former state security agents. Combine that with a morally compromised police and Ministry of Justice
effort to combat the invasion, and you have a genuine crisis. Piet’s growing fear of discovery or betrayal
and his angst at his beloved wife’s ignorance of his work ratchet up the story’s tension page by page and
make the novel extremely difficult to put down. Named the Swedish Crime Novel of the Year in 2009,
Three Seconds puts Roslund and Hellstrom in the company of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson. Crime
fiction rarely gets as good as this.
Swedish duo Roslund and Hellström (www.roslund-hellstrom.com) return with the adventures of Detective Inspector Ewert Grens, last seen in Box 21 (2009), a title not currently available on audio. Here, Grens is inadvertently about to expose the undercover work of the Swedish police and their most valuable operative, Piet Hoffman, as they attempt to thwart a drug operation in prison. Hoffman is determined that this be his final undercover job before he leaves this life behind; Grens just wants to solve a murder Hoffman may have witnessed. Audie Award winner Christopher Lane (Charlie Wilson's War) does a fine job of bringing to life the cast of primarily male characters, reserving a lower, stilted voice for the book's villains. Recommended for all fans of Scandinavian crime fiction. ["Give this to Stieg Larsson fans and any reader fond of morally complex thrillers," read the review of the SilverOak hc, LJ 12/10, which was a No. 1 best seller in Sweden and won that country's 2009 award for best crime novel; the SilverOak pb will be released in September.—Ed.]—Deb West, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA
Read an Excerpt
He had dreamt about the hole. For four nights in a row, the straight
edges in the dust on the shelf behind his desk had become a yawning,
bottomless hole and no matter where he was or how much he tried to
get away, he was drawn towards the black hole and then just as he
started to fall, he woke up breathless on the floor behind the corduroy
sofa, his back slippery with sweat.
It was half past four and already warm and bright in the courtyard
Of Kronoberg. Ewert Grens went out into the corridor and over to the
small pantry, where a blue J-cloth was hanging from the tap. He wet it
and went back to the office and the hole that was much smaller in
reality. So many hours, such a large part of his day for thirty-five years
had revolved around a time that no longer existed. With the wet cloth
he wiped over the long, hard edges that marked where the cassette
recorder he had been given for his twenty-fifth birthday had stood, then
the considerably short edges from the cassettes and the photo, even the
squares that had been the two loudspeakers, which were kind of
beautiful in their clarity.
And now there wasn't even dust.
He moved a cactus plant from the window sill, the files from the
floor– the majority of which contained long-since completed
preliminary investigations that should have been filed somewhere – and
filled every tiny space on the now empty shelves so that he wouldn't
need to fall any more; the hole had gone and if there wasn't a hole,
there couldn't be a bottomless pit.
A cup of black coffee, the air was still full of swirling dust particles
looking for a new home and it didn't taste as good as usual, as if the
dust had dissolved in the brown liquid; it even looked a shade lighter.
He left early – he wanted straight answers and prisoners who were
still sleepy were often less mouthy, not so insolent and scornful;
interviews were either a power struggle or an attempt to gain
confidence and he didn't have time to build up trust. He drove out of
slowed when he passed Haga and the large cemetery on the left,
hesitated before continuing straight on and accelerating again. He
could turn off the road on the way back, drive slowly past the people
with plants and flowers in one hand and a watering can in the other.
It was still thirty kilometres to the prison that he had visited at least
twice a year for the past three decades. As a policeman in Stockholm he
would regularly be involved in investigations that ended up there,
questioning, prison transport, there was always someone who knew
something and someone who had seen something but the hatred of
uniforms was greater there than anywhere else and their fear of the
consequences justified, as a grass never survived long in an enclosed
space, so the most usual answer on the recorder was a sneering laugh or
simply empty silence.
Yesterday, Ewert Grens had met and written off two of three names
on the periphery of the investigation who owned security firms with
official links to Wojtek International. He had drunk coffee with a
certain Maciej Bosacki in Odensala outside Marsta, and more coffee
with Karl Lager in Sodertalje and after only a couple of minutes at each
table had known that they didn't do executions in city centre flats.
Far in the distance, the mighty wall.
He had on occasion walked under the huge prison yard through a
network of passages and each time he had met people he avoided in
reality, in life. He had taken days and years from them, and he
understood why they spat at him, he even respected it, but it did not
affect him, they had all pissed on other people and in Ewert Grens's
world, anyone who felt they had the right to harm someone else should
have the balls to stand up for it later.
The grey concrete grew longer, higher.
He had one name left on the brown-stained paper. Piet Hoffmann,
previously convicted of aiming and firing at a policeman, and who had
then been granted a gun licence all the same. Something was amiss.
Ewert Grens parked the car and walked over to the prison entrance
and the prisoner who would shortly be sitting in front of him.
It didn't feel right.
He didn't know why. Maybe it was too quiet. Maybe he was getting
locked into his own head as well.
He had fought off any thoughts that carried Zofia with them, which
had been worst around two in the morning, just before it started to get
light. He had got up, like before, chin-ups, jumping with his feet
together until the sweat poured from his forehead and down his chest.
He should be relaxed. Wojtek had got their reports, three days in a
row. He had stamped out and taken over. From this afternoon, he
would be getting bigger deliveries and selling more.
But he couldn't relax. Something was bothering him, something that
demanded space and couldn't be reasoned away.
He was scared.
The doors had been unlocked, his neighbours were moving around
out there, he couldn't see them but they were there, shouting and
whispering. The sock between the door and the doorframe, the chair in
front of the threshold, the pillow under the covers.
Two minutes past seven. Eighteen minutes to go.
He pressed himself against the wall.
The older man at central security studied his police ID, typed
something on a computer, sighed.
'Questioning, you say?'
'I've reserved a room. So it would be great if you could let me in. So
I could get to it.'
The older man was in no rush. He lifted the phone and punched in
'You'll have to wait a moment. There's something I need to check.'
It took fourteen minutes.
Then all hell let loose.
The door was pulled open. One second. The chair was kicked over. One
second. Stefan passed close to him on the right, a screwdriver in his fist.
There's a moment left, a beat, people always experience half a second in
such different ways.
There were probably four of them.
He had seen this happen several times, even taken part himself
Someone ran in with a screwdriver, a table leg, a cut piece of metal.
And straight behind, more hands to punch or kill. Two out in the
corridor, always at a distance to keep watch.
The pillow and sweatshirt under the covers, his two and half seconds
were over, his protection, his escape.
He wouldn't manage more.
One single blow, right elbow to the carotid receptors on the left side of
the throat, a hard blow right there and Stefan's blood pressure would rocket,
he would collapse, faint.
His heavy body fell to the floor, blocking the door for the next pair
of balled fists, a sharp piece of metal from the workshop, Karol Tomasz
hit out in the air with it in order to keep his balance. Piet Hoffmann
squeezed out between the doorframe and a shoulder that still hadn't
quite fathomed where the person who was going to die was hiding. He
ran out into the corridor between the two who were standing guard and
on towards the closed door of the security office.
He ran and looked round, they were standing there.
He opened the door and went into the screws' room and someone
roared stukatj behind him and the principal prison officer shouted get
the hell out of here. He probably didn't shout anything himself, he
couldn't be certain but it didn't feel like it, he stayed where he was in
front of the closed door and whispered I want to be put in isolation, and
when they didn't react, he said a bit louder I want a P18 and when
none of the bloody staring guards moved at all, in spite of everything he
did scream, now, you fuckers, presumably that's what he did, I need to be
in isolation now.
Ewert Grens sat on a chair in the visiting room and looked at a roll of
toilet paper on the floor by the bed and a mattress that was covered in
plastic and stuck out over the end of the frame – fear and longing that
for one hour every month was distilled down to two bodies holding
each other tight. He moved over to the window, not much of a view: a
couple of crude bars edged with barbed wire and further back, the
lower part of a thick grey concrete wall. He sat down again, the
restlessness that was always in him and never let him relax. He played
with the black cassette recorder that stood in the middle of the table
every time he came here to question people who hadn't seen or heard
anything; he remembered the faces as they came closer and lowered
their voices, stared at the floor, full of hate, until he shut off. He wasn't
sure that any of the interviews he'd done in this room had ever really
helped him to solve an investigation.
There was a knock at the door and a man came in. According to the
documents, Hoffmann was not yet middle-aged, so this was someone
else, considerably older and in a blue prison uniform.
'Lennart Oscarsson. Governor of Aspsas.'
Grens took his outstretched hand and smiled.
'Well blow me down, the last time we met you were just a lowly
principal officer. You've come up in the world. Have you managed to
let any more go?'
A few years in a couple of seconds.
They were there, back to the time when Principal Prison Officer
LennartOscarsson had granted a convicted, relapsed paedophile an
escorted hospital visit, a nonce who had done a runner while he was
being transported and murdered a five-year-old girl.
'Last time we met, you were just a detective superintendent. And
now . . . you still are?'
'Yes. You need to make major mistakes to be kicked up the arse.'
Grens stood on the other side of the table and waited for more
sarcasm, something just as funny, but it didn't come. He'd seen it as
soon as Oscarsson entered the room – the governor seemed distant,
unfocused, his mind elsewhere.
'You're here to talk to Hoffmann.'
'I've just come from the hospital wing. You can't see him.'
'I'm sorry, I notified you of my visit yesterday and he was fit as a
'They were hospitalised last night.'
'Three so far. Soaring temperatures. We don't know what it is. The
prison doctor has decided that they should be barrier-nursed. They are
not permitted to see anyone at all until we know what it is.'
Ewert Grens gave a loud sigh.
'Three, maybe four days. That's all I can say at the moment.'
They looked at each other, there wasn't much more to say and they
were just getting ready to go when a piercing noise ripped through the
air. The black square of plastic on Oscarsson's hip flashed red, one flash
for every loud bleep.
The governor grabbed the alarm that hung on his belt and read the
display, his face aghast at first, then stressed and evasive.
'Sorry, I've got to go.'
He was already on his way out.
'Something has obviously happened. Can you find your own way
Lennart Oscarsson ran towards the stairs, down and along the passage
towards the prison units. Checked the alarm display again.
Block G, first floor.
That was where he was.
The prisoner he had just lied about on the explicit order of the head
of the Prison and Probation Service.
He had shouted at them and then sat down on the floor.
They had reacted after a while – one of the screws had locked the
door from the inside and stayed by the glass window to keep an eye on
the men out in the corridor, and another had rung central security and
asked for assistance from the prison riot squad to escort a prisoner to an
isolation cell following a supposed threat.
He had moved to a chair and was now partially hidden from the
people circling outside who whispered stukatjsufficiently loud for him
to hear as they passed.