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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Prime Time. Liza Marklund.Ingrid Eng-Rundlow(Translator). Simom & Schuster UK Ltd (2002)

A very enjoyable Swedish crime story with a great central character and an clever plot. At the end of the filming of a series of television programes the shows host is found murdered. There are twelve possible suspects, the other people at the location and involved in the filming. Annika Bengtzon is a reporter for a struggling tabloid just returning to work after maternity leave and one of the suspects is a good friend of hers.  Annika has trouble with her partner and is being drawn into a power struggle at work while trying to pursue the story. The story twists and turns gracefully, the reveals are very well staged and the final revelation is superbly managed.
While the undoubted star of the book is Annika Bengtzon, she is spiky and uncertain as well as fiercely competent and determined, she is surrounded by a wonderfully developed supporting cast. Liza Marklund avoids cliches and stereotypes, the cast are full of vigor and each has the pulse of life within them. The three main threads of the story are cunningly juggled, they bump into each other rather than overlap, still they do not crowd each other and the book has a nice unity to it.
Thomas, Annika's partner is annoying, for a lot of the story he is awash with self-pitying frustration about the fat that the choices he made have not given him the life he wants. Liza Marklund pulls off the very difficult task of making it possible that such a strong woman as Annika would tolerate let alone feel grateful for the attentions of such a man. The dynamics of their relationship do develop in an interesting way across the length of the book, overall it remains the least appealing aspect of the story. The power struggle at the newspaper where Annik works is superbly staged, the newspaper is struggling due to incompetence at the top and frustration pushes a senior manager into action. The route he takes and the way he stages his battles is great, office politics rarely are described as well as they are here. The friction between personality and business requirements is subtly and effectively drawn out. The fight is not life or death, it is not any less intense however.
The core murder story is excellent, a great set up is not wasted in any way. A remote location, a clear list of suspects all of who had a reason to wish the victim ill, the mechanics are managed with considerably skill. The plot is unraveled at a considered pace, there are no explosive action scene, the final confrontation is as tense as any gun battle and prove that words can be dangerous.
All told, a very enjoyable read with a sharp edge of humor and a hefty punch, well worth reading.

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