Customer Review

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very dark, enjoyable Swedish noir novel, 28 May 2010
This review is from: The Vault (Paperback)
The Vault is a very dark book indeed, a compelling, fast-paced and fresh take on those well-worn staples of crime-fiction: the hostage drama and sex-trafficking. It is also a police procedural, told with relentless cynicism. I think it's an excellent novel, but you have been warned!
There are two main strands to the plot. One concerns middle-aged senior police detective Ewart Grens, a man who is like the living dead since the injuries suffered by his colleague and partner Anni 25 years ago have reduced her to a brain-damaged paraplegic. Grens is an obsessive loner, rarely going home from his office where he listens non-stop to music sung by 1960s pop star Siw Malmqvist, and is an enigma to his colleagues (two of whom, Sven Sundqvist and Bengt Nordwall, are the closest he has to friends).
Desperately unhappy and depressed, Grens is a superb, workaholic detective who has solved vast numbers of crimes- but is fanatically concerned with one criminal in particular, Jochum Lang, the man who was responsible for Anni's condition, but who received only a short sentence at the time. Lang is an "enforcer" for organised criminals who has been in and out of prison over the intervening years, escaping with light sentences because he and his associates terrorise witnesses. Grens is determined to see Lang put away for good, and seizes an opportunity presented by an attack on a petty drug-dealer. Grens pursues his monomaniacal goal to the expense of everyone and everything, trampling over a witness's sensitivities as well as the truth in his desperate pursuit of his one goal - a goal which is pointless so far as as Anni herself is concerned, as she will never be able to understand anything.
The second story is that of Lydia and Alena, who as young teenagers have been conned into leaving their native Lithuania to come to Sweden in search of work - but who instead have been sold into sex slavery. The girls' ordeal is unbearably horrific as they are repeatedly brutalised by their ghastly pimp and their "clients", a tale told in a fatalistic, nonsensational way which makes it almost unbearable to read - especially as it is clear that their story is repeated many, many times over for other poor girls. One day their grim lives reach a horrible climax that brings them directly into contact with Grens and his colleagues. The twists and turns of the resultant events are simultaneously exciting and sad.
I think this book is quite brilliant, most particularly in the story of the tragic Lydia, both in the present day and in the past, as she remembers her younger life and as Sundqvist finds out the details of her betrayal. It made me very angry indeed as the authors explore to the limit the extent to which the police bind together to protect their own, and how in so doing they are betraying those weaker victims of society who not only need their protection the most, but who the police are entrusted to serve. The decisions made mainly by Grens but also by his younger colleague Sundqvist, are horribly misguided, leaving me shaken. The final pages of the novel leave the reader in no doubt as to the extent of the evil ramifications that can occur when people who should know better take matters into their own hands for their own reasons - but who cannot know the full story or understand (because of their personal involvements and weaknesses) the entire picture.

Review in full at my blog Petrona
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4.7 out of 5 stars (7 customer reviews)
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Location: Kingston upon Thames, Surrey United Kingdom

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