Piet Hoffmann is the Swedish police force's best undercover operative. Not even his family know of his double identity. But when a drug deal with the Polish mafia goes fatally wrong, his secret life begins to crumble around him.
Detective Inspector Ewert Grens is assigned to investigate the drug-related killing. Unaware of Hoffmann's true identity, he believes himself to be on the trail of a dangerous psychopath.
Hoffmann must desperately maintain his cover, or else he is a dead man walking. But in the doggedly perceptive Ewert Grens, he has just made the most relentless of enemies.
About the Author
Award-winning journalist Anders Roslund is the founder and former head of Kulturnyheterna (Culture News) on Swedish television, and for many years worked as a news reporter - specializing in criminal and social issues - and as an Editor-in-chief at Rapport and Aktuellt, Sweden's two foremost news programmes.
Börge Hellström (1957-2017) was an ex-convict who brought a unique insight into the brutal reality of criminal life. He worked with the rehabilitation of young offenders and drug addicts, and was one of the founders of the crime prevention organization KRIS (Criminals Return Into Society).
Their DCI Ewert Grens novels have won the Glass Key Award, the Best Swedish Crime Novel award, the CWA International Dagger, appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, been translated into 31 different languages.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Three Seconds is a tour de force about an ex-con turned undercover operative who must infiltrate the Polish mafia in order to stop drug distribution inside the prison system. In order to do this he must commit a crime and go back inside Sweden's most brutal prisons. The pace is unrelenting and the tension rachets up until the very explosive end. This is crime fiction at its most compelling.
The plot of Three Seconds kept my attention the whole way through. In fact, I had several nights of staying up late reading. I was not familiar with these Swedish authors and had never read any of their works. However, I am definitely going to look for more novels which they have published. After having read all three of Stieg Larsson's trilogy I wondered if it would be somewhat similar, but quickly found that, although it was a mystery set in Sweden, it was totally unlike Larsson's stories. The story was intriguing and moved at a good pace. The characters were well defined and although they had Swedish names (of course) they were still identifiable and easy to keep track of. Piet Hoffman is a character who catches your interest from the beginning. I was pulling for him through out, although I had second thoughts at times. I felt the plot moved along very well and at no time did I get bored with the tedium of details. Several times I was caught up in surprise at the turn of events. Although Hoffman spends time in prison and those details are dealt with clearly, it nevertheless does not get bogged down in grim revelations about prison life other than those relative to the tale. The plot kept running on till the very end and kept this reader very involved. I belong to a book club group and have definitely recommended it to my friends. Sometimes I find that I get bored with tedious facts in some novels, but this was never the case with Three Seconds. I loved it and highly recommend it to anyone who likes mysteries.
I eagerly awaited the arrival of this book, since the promotional write-up had implied that it would be enjoyed by those who enjoyed the Stieg Larsson trilogy. Unfortunately, I only made it approximately a quarter of the way through the book, as I had a difficult time getting into the story, and I found the main characters to be either uninteresting or unappealing. Furthermore, while I understand that Poland is a ferry-ride neighbor from Sweden, the authors' habit of maintaining some of the dialogue in Polish lost its charm quickly. Although I realize that many others have enjoyed this book, it should not try to ride on the coattails of the late, great Stieg Larsson.
Ex-con Piet Hoffman is a covert informant for the Swedish police. He's infiltrated the Polish mafia and is working his way to the top bosses when someone is murdered during a drug deal gone bad. Eric Wilson, Piet's handler, now wants him to go deeper into the mafia to uncover their plan to take control of illegal drug distribution within the Swedish prison system. Years earlier when they recruited him, Piet had nothing to lose and was willing to take on any assignment despite the danger. Now that he's married with a family, he's more reluctant but agrees to take on his deadliest mission, despite the fact that using criminals for police investigations is not actually approved of in Sweden. Meeting with his handler and a very secret group of government officials, he extracts the promise that if he is successful, he'll be free of his commitment to the police and he and his family will be relocated outside the country, similar to our Witness Protection Program. Problems arise when Detective Inspector Ewert Grens, a sad and lonely colleague of Eric Wilson, is assigned to investigate the murder. Grens works doggedly despite the roadblocks thrown in his way to keep him from finding out Hoffman's identity and destroying Hoffman's chance of success. Hoffman's life hangs in the balance between the Polish mafia and the government group that's supposed to be protecting him that now wants him dead. If you're a fan of the late Stieg Larsson and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO series, this book won't disappoint. The interesting duo of journalist Roslund and ex-criminal Hellstrom has created an intense and intelligent Swedish police procedural that gives the reader a glimpse into the Swedish criminal world and prison system. If you're only going to read one book in January, THREE SECONDS should be the one! Lynn Kimmerle
I read this ARC for the Barnes and Noble First Look. I did not start with high expectations and was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved this book! The book is full of suspence and thrills and I thought the authors did a wonder job of setting the characters up and then just taking off with the story. I stayed up late a couple of nights because I was so excited to read on and finished it before the timeline of the First Look discussion. If you like suspence and action, this book is for you!
FACTS: Sweden is a nation of laws and rights. Criminal organizations profit from illegal trade -- drug distribution being one. Swedish prisons are underfunded, understaffed. Drugged inmates are easier -- cheaper -- to control. Police supervisory authority believes conventional intelligence methods are insufficient to combat organized crime. To infiltrate criminal organizations, the police need spies. Swedish police cannot engage in criminal activity. Only real criminals can pose as criminals. How far will criminal organizations go to kill a snitch? How far will police authority go to deny it employs criminals? What must a man -- caught in the middle -- do to survive, to "not die yet"? THREE SECONDS provides the explosive answers in a taut human drama set in the limbo of Swedish law versus Swedish need. A relentless nerve-wracking police thriller right up there with DAY OF THE JACKAL and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. One of the best books I've read -- ever.
THREE SECONDS is a gripping, complex, compelling look into the life of Piet Hoffman, a Swedish Police informant, planted inside a Swedish prison to undermine a Polish mafia drug ring. After years of hard work, Piet finally gains the trust of a respected businessman who fronts the Polish mob. This is an exciting, well-plotted, and innovative book with lots of interesting details and drama to make this a totally enjoyable read. The author did a fabulous job researching and writing an entertaining story to keep the reader breathing in short breaths, if they remember to breathe at all.
This excellent crime novel grabbed me right from the start with its condensed language and intense plot. It is constructed with such suspense that I read it in nearly one sitting.
I had a hard time gettnig into this book. I received an advance US copy and had a hard time staying interested. It was choppy and the dialouge was weird a sentence would start strond and end weak. Again it could be because it was an advance copy but it was trying a little to hard to be intense. I may circle back around to it againa nd see if I can get into it. Not really that impressed on first impression though.
Three Seconds is divided into five parts. The first section introduces us to the main characters. Piet Hoffman (also known by his code name Paula) is an ex-con recruited by the police to infiltrate the drug world. His current task is to be sent back to prison where he is to destroy the current drug dealers and set it up so that the Polish Mafia can take over the lucrative business of selling drugs within the prison system. Once he is done, he will be removed, set up with a new identity, and the Polish Mafia will be broken up by the authorities. To complicate this scenario is an unfortunate murder that takes place in an apartment Piet uses, which sets the second character, Ewert Grens, on Piet's trail and threatens his mission. Grens is a quirky detective, struggling with grief over the loss of his wife, with a reputation for never giving up, and there is a high likelihood that he will uncover Piet's involvement in the murder. A third, lesser character is Erik Wilson, Piet's handler, who is first introduced as he attends an international conference on advanced infiltration in Georgia, USA. The second part starts to build excitement as we follow Piet go through 2 days of preparation before his incarceration. Part three builds to a crescendo as we breathlessly follow the events that unfold for Piet in prison as he seems trapped in an inescapable situation. Parts four and five track Grens's progess in solving the original murder, while uncovering the conspiracy set in motion to destroy Piet. Although the book starts slowly, jumping back and forth between the characters, throwing us into confusion (complicated by Swedish names and locations), by the time Piet enters prison we are fully hooked and continue reading at a breakneck pace to find out Piet's fate. The authors do an excellent job of plotting, setting up the situation and then following through to a more than satisfactory conclusion. I highly recommend this book. It's even more engaging than the Stieg Larsson trilogy, in my opinion.
I enjoyed reading this book by Swedish authors Roslund and Hellstrom. The intro took a little while to develop, but the story required this beginning. These best line of the story is the last (which I will not divulge). A lot of method study in being a criminal and an investigator. The characters are realistic. I would recomment this to anyone who enjoys crime fiction.
i have to say, i am just not feeling the book. I am going to push thru, but the way it is written is difficult to decipher who is doing what. The writing is choppy, I am not developing strong feelings for the characters. I am on page 300, and just like, engh... really. I am a fast reader, love crime genre, loved Stieg Larsons books, but I cross the board in books... and I was really hoping for a strong page turner here... but i am left with a weird writing style, strange translation... I dono, I know I am in the minority. But I will finish.
I am not the type to give up on a book I have started, but I sure am having trouble staying with this one. I read a few pages, then go on to another book. Just can't seem to get into it even though I keep trying. I will keep at it though, perhaps because of all the great reviews it got, but right now, I don't think it even comes close to the Stieg Larsson books!
Three seconds is a very well written exciting book. I recommend it to anyone who loves adventure. This is crime fiction at its most compelling.
Three Seconds, the most recent B&N First Look Book Club selection, is an edge-of-your seat crime novel with unforgettable characters and a fast paced plot. It also examines good and evil, corruption, and human nature. I will definitely seek out other books by these authors. I highly recommend it - It's great for book clubs!
Three Seconds is a great read for those who like the old fashioned cops and robbers stories, but with a twist. What if the "robber" works for the cop? What if the "robber" is suspicious of the cops motives? Piet is not a robber, per se, but a cunning criminal who knows the system. He is at a crossroads of doing what he's been doing, and being the family man he wants to become. But, he has to do one more assignment. And that assignment changes everything. About half way through the book, the lines between "good and evil" are blurred to the point where you don't know who to support in the struggle. What I really appreciated about this book was the methodical way the authors chose to write certain aspects of the book. The level of description they used really allowed the reader to imagine what was going on, whether it be a physcial scene, or the emotions (anxiety, confustion, etc) of the character we are "watching." I will warn you, however, that in the beginning there is a potential of getting confused on who is who. Don't give up if you get confused! As the book unravels, everything clears up. And the story line is well worth it.
This is a great read it will take you on a roller coaster ride until the very end. Three Seconds is a crime novel, that has a lot of conspiracy and it is also a detective storyall in one. If you want a book that you can get right into the character and it has plenty action. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a very compelling and sometime very complex story.
If you like books that take to you another place, this is the book for you. If you like to be at the edge of your seat, this book is for you. If you like to have a book grab you and not let you go, this is the book for you! This book will take to you to another country into a world of crime and drama. It is suspenseful and full of rich characters all with compelling stories This is a must read for 2011! Start off the year right and read this book!
In Sweden, Piet Hoffman is so good at what he does only one other knows who he really is. An ex-con with a loving wife and two kids, he has spent much of the decade moving up the hierarchy of the Polish Mafia working in Stockholm. The mob chief chooses Piet to lead their plan to take over the supplying of amphetamines to convicts; but first he must enter Wotjek Security to infiltrate a Polish drug-dealing operation in order to eliminate the current sales boss (for the mob) and gather information (for the cops). Meanwhile Swedish Police Service Detective Inspector Ewert Grens investigates a drug-related killing in which Hoffman witnessed the execution. All roads lead to Hoffman, who has wiretap information he uses to keep corrupt politicians from eliminating him. Instead the politicos believe in cantankerous obstinate Grens they have the source to destroy Hoffman. However, Grens is frustrated as someone is covering up something; what he does not know in his pursuit of Hoffman is he threatens Piet's cover. Three seconds is a great Swedish police procedural that focuses on the Eastern European invasion of Sweden by felons and former agents. The story line is filled with action, but driven by Piet who fears the corrupt cops or politicians will soon sell him out. His anguish over his family augments the tale as he wants to come out of the cold but at the same time leaves readers to wonder why he takes such risks as he goes under for allegedly one final potentially deadly assignment. Mindful of Henning Mankell's Inspector Kurt Wallander thrillers, fans will relish Piet's work for the Police Service. Harriet Klausner
I tried so hard to get into this book and like it. I had to force myself to read it daily but just felt like I was wasting my time. I feel terrible because so many people love this book. The bottom line is this book was just not for me.
Piet Hoffman, an ex-con and informant for the Swedish police, attempting to help them infiltrate the drug trade of the Polish mafia. The story-line is filled with action. One of the things I found especially interesting in Three Seconds was the depth of description of both the police and criminal worlds. An excellent police procedural and brilliantly plotted.
...as in don't compare it to the Steig Larson series jut because they both hail from Sweden. The similarities end there. Three Seconds is compelling, fast moving, complex and enjoyable (IMO the Dragon Tattoo etc are none of those things!) Well written with an interesting juxtapose of good guy/bad guy. Definitely a great read!
Roslund and Hellström are definitely the best crime writers of Scandinavia and THREE SECONDS is a world class crime novel. This book is awfully suspenseful and impossible to put down.
Once I started reading Three Seconds, I found it very hard to put down. Another fabulous selection for the B&N First Look Book Club, kept me enthralled and wanting to know how the book would end. Three Seconds is the story of an ex-con, turned undercover operative for the police. It is Piet's assignment to infiltrate the Polish mafia and then go to prison and break up the drug trade. His handler gets approval for the operation from the government and the police hierarchy, but all goes awry when Piet is implicated in a murder and no one tells the investigating detective what really happened. As the detective works to solve the case, Piet goes into the prison where all goes as planned until . . .
"Three Seconds" is an exceptional crime novel with strong, complex characters and a plot that has unexpected twists. There is suspense and surprise that holds your attention all the way through. This novel challenges the reader to look at their own perception of right and wrong and the fine line between.There are enough unanswered questions to keep you thinking and to me that makes this a great read.If you like crime novels, you will love "Three Seconds"!