When Erik Berggren, a man with learning disabilities is found mutilated and brutally murdered Inspector Magnus Kalo and his team are mystified. Other than being an alcoholic, the victim seems to have led a completely normal, if rather lonely, life.
Then Erik’s mother is viciously attacked in a similar way. Investigating family secrets that stretch back decades and a trail that leads to to the Argentinian military Junta’s reign of terror Magnus realises that someone is stalking him and his own family. His wife, Linn, a therapist, offers her own insights into the case until she too is attacked.
As the Swedish winter draws in clues seem to disappear under the falling snow. It’s clear that Magnus is on the trail of a master manipulator with a brutal mission.
I choose a rainy, dark Sunday to read this. It was perfect. Quite a page turner this book is fast paced. I liked the contrast between the police work done by Magnus and the psychological profiles that his wife (a therapist) provided. I also liked the contrast that the detective’s children provided by highlighting their trust and innocence against the awful goings on that were taking place around them. Little clues are provided through the book and certain characters definitely make the reader feel uneasy. The book had a good dose of those moments that leave the reader wondering about the human race, psychology, politics and the importance of family relationships. At certain moments I thought I could feel a bit of a similarity to the Sjowall and Wahloo Beck books, particularly Roseanna. The characters have a humanity to them and the language is simple but tells the story well.
I felt that the book title and cover art were a bit off track for the fan of Nordic crime writing. I would never have gone near this in a bookstore. It doesn’t look particularly Nordic and the author’s name is not prominent enough for me to realise she might be Swedish. The Swedish title was Tredje Graden which translates as The Third Degree (you will have to read it to understand the significance of that title, but I think it is more fitting). The actual book has beautifully rounded corners, lovely paper and the wording on the pages is easy to read. It is also really well translated. There was not one sentence that sounded odd and the language flowed throughout the book.
Liselotte Roll lives with her family near Stockholm. While studying Archaeology, she lived and worked in Argentina, where she witnessed at first hand how the military junta’s reign of terror was still affecting the lives of Argentinians. This experience led to her debut novel Good Girls Don’t Tell. Liselotte Roll has been compared to crime writers such as Camilla Läckberg, Liza Marklund, Sara Blaedel and Karin Slaughter. Her work has been translated into eight languages. We had the chance recently to ask Liselotte some questions:
How and when did you become a crime fiction writer? What has your author journey been like?
My writing initially sprang out of some misery, I’m afraid. I would probably never have been a writer or especially a dark minded crime writer if I hadn’t grown up with an alcoholic parent and had some issues to dig into, or if I hadn’t taken a year off from my job as a news reporter to take care of my son who was hypersensitive to infections and had 16 allergies when he was younger. I managed to write my first book in that year.
That said, I am a very happy and calm person nowadays living a quite normal suburban life far from the lives of the tortured souls in my books. Good Girls Don’t tell is my first thriller and I wrote it in 2012, it has since been translated to various languages.
Prior to my work as a reporter and scriptwriter for a kids show in public radio I worked as an archaeologist. It was during that time, in the nineties, I visited Argentina and the city La Rioja. I was part of a pre-Inca excavation at the feet of the Andes and stayed at the home of a self-proclaimed Shaman woman who had an altar of Marilyn Monroe in her hallway and a dog kennel in her backyard. Eventually a colleague of mine invited me to stay at her house instead, and we became good friends and still are. She told me stories about the military junta and took me to a cemetery where young men who had died during the military regime were exposed in glass coffins, to always be remembered. It was emotional and I think that’s why ten years later I wrote Good Girls don´t tell.
We recently became aware that many crime fiction writers love to follow true crime stories. Do you follow true crime? Does it influence what you write?
We don´t have a lot of complex, fictionlike murders cases in Sweden, if there are any, it´s hard not to read about it, because the media gets quite busy, but I do not find these crimes inspiring, just plain sad. I do sometimes like to see American series like “Evil twins” “Swamp murders” and so forth, mostly to study police work, but I never look at Swedish versions, it gets too close and personal. Real crimes are sad and tragic, my own stories are just dark fairytales.
Who was your favourite character to write in Good Girls Don’t Tell and why? The therapist Linn is my favourite, she is intelligent and complex, struggling with her background with an alcoholic parent, a background similar to mine. She and her modest and a bit slow minded police husband Magnus, compliment each other. Together they are okay, apart they wouldn’t manage a day. Together and with their daughters they are a happy, ordinary family who happen to get into an extraordinary and dangerous situation.
Could you explain something about if/how the real life crime situation in Argentina differs from Sweden?
I was in La Rioja in the nineties and didn´t see any crimes at all where I was. Strange maybe, because Argentina has a very segregated society. The only illegal thing I witnessed was people throwing tomatoes on politicians and that was probably justified. This was before the country’s economic meltdown. Many politicians were corrupt then. In Sweden our politicians are more or less as in the UK I would presume, some are rotten eggs, but here a woman politician was fired a couple of years ago when she bought a chocolate bar with tax money on a business trip. When it comes to ordinary crimes, thefts, murders etc, we do have an increase and unfortunately a decrease in police officers, they are too few and they are poorly paid, so I guess that Sweden which has been thought to be safe is perhaps on a slippery slope.
Are you involved in any book festivals? Could you tell us a little about how you feel as an author attending live literature events?
I have done some promotion tours, once with a caravan around Sweden, and I will actually go to London at the end of November. It´s very nice to meet my readers. They often surprise me with their lovely way and thoughts and I haven´t ever met anyone rude. I have regular contact with some of them on Facebook. When you write it´s difficult to imagine that anyone outside my house should care about what I do, but they do and it makes me really happy.
Your books have been translated into 8 languages. What countries are your books popular in?
The book has been popular in Germany and in the Nordic countries. I get a lot of emails from Dutch fans, who are very active. I’ve heard that they like the fact that my main character Linn is a working mum who solves crimes and is a little more intelligent than her husband. She is equal. This spring Good Girls will be out in Poland and they are usually very interested in Scandinavian crime. I have one more finished book in the Kalo-series and another one almost finished on my desk. In that one there is actually an Englishman.
What is the process of working with translators like?
Sometimes I get contacted by the translators, but not all the time, in this case I have been in regular contact with Ian Giles. I’m really excited to be published in English, few books are, and it opens up the world as it’s the world’s number one language. The UK has so many great authors and an inspiring literary history. It also gives me an opportunity to visit. I am really looking forward to my trip to London.
Translated from the Swedish by Ian Giles
Released 17 November 2016, price £9.99
ISBN 978 94 6238 0394