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MISTERIOSO


By Arne Dahl
Translated by Titna Nunnally

Pantheon Books, July 2011 ($25.95)
ISBN-10: 0375425357
ISBN-13: 978-0-375-42535-6

Reviewed by Larry Jung
(August 2011)

Arne Dahl has accomplished two things with MISTERIOSO: a well-written fast paced police procedural and a social commentary on the deep-rooted xenophobia in Sweden. The country's homogeneous culture is being severely strained to the breaking point by the recent legal and illegal refugees from Europe. The old prejudice still prevails in Sweden and particularly in the police force that "middle-aged heterosexual men with full-time jobs and white complexions are the societal norm. It's on that set of features that all assessments of what is normal is based. And health standards." (page 24) The other force disrupting Swedish society is organized crime in the form of the Russian Mafia. In particular people smuggling into Sweden.

Dahl has the ability to get at the core of his characters. The members of the elite crime unit in the National Criminal Police called the A-Unit, come from diverse backgrounds and from all over Sweden. Dahl's insight into each of these police officers is a joy to read. The character of Paul Hjelm is the main character of the book, but he does not dominate the action. By the end of the manhunt, the story is about the team. The building of the police team contrasts with the devolving character of the serial killer who is killing off Sweden's leading businessmen.

During the hunt, Paul Hjelm thinks "...how impossible it was to get any sort of insight into another person's life. What is it that drives somebody's life, what is it that forms all these connections with other people?" (page 135) Hjelm states the main theme of the book. In a way, answering these questions is why we read crime novels.

Dahl breathes fresh life into the well-worn genre of the police procedural. For fans of this genre, Arne Dahl's MISTERIOSO is a must-read. I am eagerly awaiting the second book in Dahl's Intercrime series.

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