Death of an individual

Linda, as in the Linda murder by Leif G.W. Persson is a bit of an odd read. Having said which, it's both hugely enjoyable and unexpectedly thought-provoking.

At heart it's an old fashioned police procedural by one of the darkest of the Nordic-noir writers. Leif G.W Persson's day job, until recently, was a Professor of Criminology. He has also worked as a criminal profiler, and was fired from an earlier job when he blew the whistle on a Minister of Justice, who was linked to a prostitution ring in Stockholm. The fall-out from that nearly cost him his life, as he became suicidal. It was also the inspiration, however, for his first novel. Although only a few of his novels have been translated into English, I would be very keen to read more.

Linda is a blackly comic novel, but its humour only enhances the serious questions that lie at its heart. Linda Wallin is a happy, young woman, training to be a detective, with a circle of friends and no apparent enemies. Her rape and murder send shock waves through the small community of Vaxjo. Unable to cope the local police call in the serious crimes unit from Stockholm. Unfortunately they're led by Detective Evert Backstrom, as fine an example of misogynistic, lazy policing as you could hope to meet. While Backstrom boozes, idles, and makes inappropriate advances to female journalists; his colleagues calmly use old-fashioned police work to put the clues together and capture the offender.

Throughout the book (as you would probably expect from a crime novel) the focus is very much on the pursuit of the criminal. Somewhere in all of this the victim lies forgotten. A poignant chapter at the end in which a young policewoman working towards her PhD muses on this put this into context - the way in which the victim becomes a symbol for the press, while the victim herself becomes forgotten amidst the events surrounding her death.

It's extraordinary writing. Often very funny, occasionally exasperating, never less than gripping. I loved the work of Leif G.W. Persson.


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