Duh. I read the second in the series without realising there was a first. That is always irritating, but explains why the characters at the beginning of ‘Bad Blood’ often refer back to the ‘Power Murders’ which the detective team presumably solved in the first book, ‘The Blinded Man‘.
Paul Hjelm is part of a team hunting down the ‘Kentucky Killer’, a serial killer who has tortured and murdered a literary critic in an US airport before making his way to Sweden using a false passport. What is particularly nasty about the perpetrator is that he has a highly refined instrument of torture in his possession, which he uses to pinch the vocal chords of victims so, quite literally, no-one can hear them scream. When the executioner remains unapprehended at Arlanda airport, The National Criminal Police’s Special Unit For Violent Crimes of An International Character has its work cut out to trace him before he strikes again.
The scope of the investigation is wide, bringing in references to the Vietnam War, a secret human rights organisation active in Iraq, the CIA and FBI, New York, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, drug deals and more besides. As well as the torture-murders, there are also helicopter flights, copied keys, car dashes, beatings, shootings, lots of rain, very little humour and even less sex.
I found the translation stilted and awkward; bizarre words kept tripping me up and I re-read whole paragraphs to try to understand the meaning. The Swedish character and place names remain untranslated so, because of their unfamiliarity, I had difficulty rooting them in my brain. I’ve never been to Sweden so couldn’t visualise the settings, there were too many characters and the plot was complicated. The whole reading experience felt more like trying to memorise the Swedish Highway Code before a theory test. Although I did stay on the road, I rather wish I’d dumped the vehicle on a roundabout and taken a high-speed train to somewhere sunnier!