Wednesday, October 29, 2008

PARADISE AND TURMOIL ON THE BALTIC: LIZA MARKLUND



In Liza Marklund's novel Paradise newspaper sub-editor Annika Bengtzon is trying to recover from the violent death of her fiance that occurred in the preceding book, Studio 69.
A mysterious woman Rebecka Bjorkstig approaches Annika to write an article about her foundation called 'Paradise', which helps people, who are being threatened with violence, disappear and start new lives.
As a hurricane  sweeps across Southern Sweden two young men are killed at Stockholm's free port and a container lorry stashed full of smuggled cigarettes goes missing. Annika is then contacted by a desperate Aida Begovic, a Bosnian refugee, who is being pursued by Ratko, one of the feared 'Yugo' mafia.  Annika temporarily saves Aida from Ratko and then refers her to Rebecka at 'Paradise' and the serious problems begin. 
Meanwhile Thomas Samuelsson, an accountant working for the city of Vaxholm, queries a contract with the foundation Paradise for their services and wonders what the future holds for him in his unfulfilling marriage to successful banker Eleanor. 

The lives of Annika, Aida, Rebecka, Ratko and Thomas will become interrelated in this exciting and slightly different crime novel. The plot involves international criminal gangs, newspaper politics, marital violence, the break up of Yugoslavia and Sweden's social welfare departments. It does cover a lot of ground but does it very well. Nothing is quite as it seems and the plot is a little difficult to follow at times with a few too many traffic directions. 
There are twists and turns along the way as Annika struggles with her almost overwhelming personal problems and the story moves to its satisfactory conclusion.
 
Liza Marklund has been involved in a ridiculous controversy over the use of her photograph on the cover to sell her books see here and here
But her looks are frankly irrelevant compared to the fact that the lady can really write excellent crime fiction. I read Paradise just after finishing The Fire Engine That Disappeared by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo so my standards were set exceptionally high. 
Paradise was below those standards but I enjoyed reading the book and I was very impressed by the straightforward style of writing. 
The several different perspectives taken during the book worked very well. There was no disruption to the flow of the narrative and the build up of tension, which sometimes occurs when this multiple perspective is attempted, and the dialogue seemed natural to the circumstances.   

Annika's great love for her grandmother Sophia rang very true as my own younger daughter was very close to her grandmother who died recently. 
I think you need to have experienced life to be able communicate a story effectively and Liza Marklund has that skill.
I read The Bomber [in which the action takes place 8 years after Studio 69] some while ago, but the younger more immature Annika of this novel was a more interesting character. She was certainly no superwoman and became fairly hysterical under pressure but this made her a much more sympathetic and realistic character. 
There is obviously an incredible depth of talented young crime writers in Sweden.
I intend to read more Liza Marklund whatever the design on the cover. 

2 Comments:

OpenID maxine said...

Great review, Norm, and I think a fair assessment. Owing to the strange fashion of publishing Scandinavian (and other translated) novels out of order, I read this one before the earlier books in the series - so I filled in the gaps as I went on, so to speak. In fact, when I first read them, I thought the author had very cleverly filled in the back story of her characters later, as I did not then realise how common is the practice of translating series out of order. Now I have wised up.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Maxine.
According to wikpedia and the official Liza Marklund website they were translated in the order in which they were written. This must be a first for Swedish to English publication but The Bomber was written first and she did fill in the back story.
When we do get a series translated in order they are written out of order chronologically in order to confuse us. ;0)

2:25 PM  

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