A thriller should start with thrills, and the horrible crime depicted at the beginning of this book certainly churns your stomach and sets you on the edge of your seat waiting for the plot to unfold.
And "The Beast" starts out okay, with excellent character sketches establishing each person's place in ordinary and underworld Swedish society. With each new chapter you anticipate how these various characters are ultimately going to come together.
The major spine of "The Beast" follows the interior meditations of Fredrik Steffanson as he raises his daughter alone, and has various interactions with the other characters, which include his ex-wife, his current girlfriend (only described as beautiful and half his age and his daughter's nursery school teacher), police officers, prisoners, their guards, no-nothing working class Swedes who can't differentiate between a sadistic murderous sexual pervert and a flasher, and a pointless and unresolved side plot about a married prison warden carrying on a homosexual affair with a guard (one suspects that the authors simply wanted to put a sympathetic gay character in somehow, but it all looks tacked-on).
The more interesting and brutal interior dialogue is from the sexual predator, which does approach art as the horror of reading it is absolutely nauseating and horrifying.
But halfway through the work, the thriller stops, the "chase" is resolved, and it all becomes a preachy middle-brow meditation on what is justice in the face of a horrible crime in a society with the absence of the death penalty. There is a side meditation on vigilante justice. But these themes are not worked out in any complex or challenging way and lack the intellectual depth of an editorial in a giveaway newssheet. The allusions to empty Swedish state churches and a single mention of two popular evangelical free churches and their true ideas and the thoughts of their adherents is left unexplored and a squandered opportunity to make this vapid work slightly more complex.
An agglomeration of interesting themes that is all squandered potential.