Monday, October 25, 2010


This post continues my thoughts at the post Between Summer's Longing.....

I have now finished reading Leif G.W.Persson's 551 page novel Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End. [BSLAWE].
The plot begins with the apparent suicide of John Krassner, an unpleasant American journalist, who is writing a book "The Spy Who Went East" based on his even more unpleasant uncle's exploits in the CIA.
The eponymous spy is the Swedish Prime Minister, who is assassinated at the end of BSLAWE.
The plot of BSLAWE follows two separate timelines covering the secret police investigations of Krassner, and the investigation of his suicide by the Stockholm police.
The rest of the book is commentary with a very large cast of characters appearing and disappearing at various intervals, and the narrative frequently halted by complex back stories.
There are accounts of numerous meetings between the unnamed special advisor to the Prime Minister, and Berg the head of the SePo [secret police] in which they talk a lot but little is decided.

One feature of the novel is the author's very dark, and sometimes self-deprecatory sense of humour.

Then Berg had started his climb towards the top of the police pyramid while Persson had played it safe and chosen to remain down below. Twenty years later, and in Persson's case twice as many pounds round the middle,.....

A real old time constable, thought Berg affectionately when he saw Persson's fat rear end disappearing through the door.

Those familiar with Swedish crime fiction will note the names Guillou and Marklund also are mentioned in the book.

I don't know whether Professor Persson is deliberately cultivating his image as an irascible old misogynist, but the behaviour of some of his characters especially Berg's obnoxious deputy Claes Waltin is interesting to say the least.

If the hair on her head were allowed to grow a little, she could be almost perfect, with two small braided pigtails. Little Jeanette aged thirteen........

Why can't he fuck like other people anymore? thought Assistant Detective Jeanette Eriksson, who this weekend was spending more time bent forward across his knees with her redder and redder backside straight up in the air than her lover, Police Superintendent Claes Waltin, was spending between her legs.

The other main character Lars Johansson, head of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation is a much more pleasant personality;

"What's he like? What do you mean?"
"I mean, what's he like as a detective?"
"He's the best ," said Berg. For he is, of course, he thought with surprise at the same moment he said it.
"What's he good at? The special adviser nodded at him to continue.
"At figuring out how things stand," said Berg.

Johansson stands almost alone as a competent policeman among the lazy, the incompetent, and the corrupt who serve in both branches of the police force. We read about the idiotic Stockholm chief constable and his ludicrous seminars on "The Scientific Detective", secret policemen who while on surveillance go off to buy burgers, the covering up of crimes committed by off duty police officers, and the invention of threats to inflate the departmental budget.
The book rambles over international espionage, conspiracy, murder, and abuse of state power, and while it can be funny, subtle and nuanced it is also brutally crude in places.

While I was reading I kept thinking of a chef who wanted to include all his best dishes in one banquet, and although some dishes were memorable the whole meal became indigestible because there was just too much food presented to the diner.

Was BSLAWE a police procedural, an insider's exposé of incompetence, a political thriller, a satire, a black comedy or a blend of all of these?
I am certain there was a very good 300 page crime fiction thriller, or police procedural hiding among the 551 pages, but for me it was swamped by too much material and too many different stories.
Will I read the sequel 'En annan tid, ett annat liv' which won Best Swedish crime fiction novel in 2003 if it is translated into English?
Probably because just when you thought Professor Persson had depressed the reader quite enough with a dark turn of events, he kicks you in the guts with yet another appalling twist right at the very end.
Not an enjoyable read, but I do want to know what happens to Lars Johansson........


Blogger Dorte H said...

I have never felt I needed to read his books, and now I am glad I didn´t try.

I know that Sweden has the very best Scandinavian crime writers - but we do have some that are better than Prof. Persson.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

I shall certainly read this - when I can get hold of it. Does not seem to be available via Amazon (yet).

10:23 AM  

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