Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Lot Can Happen in 3 Seconds

What is it about the Swedish crime writers (Steig Larsson, Henning Mankell and now with their novel Three Seconds the duo of Roslund & Hellstrom) that we in the United States find so fascinating? Is it that we think that the crimes and moral dilemmas about which they write could not happen here...or precisely because we are afraid that they do happen here? I think it is the latter.

Having read the Larsson trilogy and some of Mankell I felt I would be remiss not to add Three Seconds. Prison, drugs and police informants: there you have it. A volatile mix. This is very definitely a stay-up-late, get-up-early, take-the-phone-off-the-hook kind of book. I still have difficulty with the Swedish place and street names but it didn't seem so bad this time. Maybe I'm just getting used to it.

The drug of choice in this case is amphetamines. If you want to know how to manufacture it, how to smuggle it between countries, how to cut it and how to get it inside a prison, this is the book for you. It is all detail. Not always a pleasant read but informative to those of us in our cocoons. And do you really know what your spouse/partner does at the so-called office or when she/he is supposed to be at home with the sick children?

Several times in the book the line "It takes a criminal to play a criminal" is repeated. Perhaps we will now have to extend that to say "It takes a criminal to write about a criminal." One of the co-authors Borge Hellstrom is described as an ex-criminal. Teaming up with journalist Anders Roslund seems like a good decision on his part. In this book they have raised some troubling questions: about the use of criminal informants to investigate other crimes, about the access to drugs in the prison system, about the manipulation of data by the police and higher authorities. Do the same things happen here? Should we care?

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