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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Red Wolf. Liza Marklund (Writer), Neil Smith (Translator). Corgi Books (2010)

A Swedish thriller with a great plot and a very engaging cast lead by a intriguing protagonist. Annika Bengtzon is a journalist, recovering from a severely traumatic event, she becomes interested in the death of a fellow reporter. The dead reporter had been working on the story of the worst terrorist incident in Sweed that had taken place years before, the same story Annika was interested in. As Anniks takes a closer look at the death she discover it may not have been accidental and that the incident at the airfield may not be ancient history. The reveals are very well staged and the conclusion is sharp and satisfying.
Annika Bengtzon is a very engaging and somewhat unsympathetic character. She is struggling to regain her equilibrium after nearly loosing her life and her work and home life are coming under pressure. She responds in unexpected and dynamic ways to her circumstances, is never willing to give up or knuckle under. She is very willing to fight dirty to protect her interests and this adds depth and force to her character.
The context of the enthusiasm of a lot of young people in the early 1970's for both Russian and Chinese communism and the unexpectedly long shadow it would cast in their lives is carefully explored. One of the nice aspects to the book is that the honest idealism of the times is not undermined by the bitter aftermath and weary hindsight. The cast are allowed to managed their own choices and the fallout from them as individuals. Liza Marklund sidesteps any stereotypes or cliches by giving her cast such strong personalities, the story is unexpected because they are happily unpredictable. There is also a very strong and pointed thread in the book about the Swedish media and the steps its owners would go to to preserve their assets, it is backed up a nice afterword by Liz Marklund which shows how skillfully she created fiction out of fact. Great fun.

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