Anger Mode: 1 (Walter Gröhn) Paperback – 1 Aug 2011
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About the Author
Stefan Tegenfalk, born 1965 in Stockholm, Sweden, where he is currently living, makes his debut with the book Anger Mode which is the first book of a trilogy about the cynical criminal detective Walter Gröhn with the Stockholm police, and Jonna de Brugge from the Special Investigations Unit, RSU.
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The basic plot is interesting if somewhat improbable, but I did not find this a particularly easy book to read. This is partly because there is a lot about the interaction between the different parts of the justice system - the local police, SAPO (the Security Police), The National Crime Squad, The Prosecutors Office and court officials. I imagine this is all fine and meaningful if you are Swedish and understand how it all works, but I found the constant jockeying for position and political shenanigans between the various parties, which fill many pages, rather tedious without adding very much. In this respect it seemed to me that it would have been better to rewrite this book for the English language market rather than do a straight translation since the story line is good.
I was also not entirely convinced about the translation as I think it is likely that this book is much more readable in the Swedish original version. One thing I did find quite amusing was that the translator clearly had not been on a political correctness course. At one stage he refers to `jungle bunnies' whilst he fairly consistently refers to some Saudi Arabian gentleman as either ` men with beards in nightshirts' or towelheads!
I think there is little doubt that this book, the first of a trilogy, is inspired by the success of the Stieg Larrson Dragon Tattoo trilogy. In fact, probably somewhat tongue in cheek, the author refers to the unlikely heroine of those books, Lisbeth Salander at one stage. However, I remember reading The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo and being captivated with the story telling and finding it very hard to put down. I am afraid that I did not find Anger Mode like that. It took me quite a while to read, and it was one of those stories where I wanted to complete the book, but I had no great enthusiasm to find out what was coming next. I felt there was a good story in there struggling to get out, but constantly getting bogged down.
There are many apparently disparate elements in the first half of the book. A liberal judge is incensed by an hour-long delay to his train and attacks the taxi-driver who is driving him home from the station. A couple of hoods break into a journalist's apartment to try to find an incriminating video. A teenage girl infuriates her frayed mother by skipping school - instead the girl goes with a friend to someone's house to smoke dope - but is injected with an unknown cocktail, leading to bizarre and tragic consequences. Grohn attempts to investigate these crimes but they seem curiously motiveless - a rookie profiler-cop, Jonna de Brugge, is assigned to him as a partner but despite some sharp repartee and small advances, they are getting nowhere when another judge phones the police to say he's murdered his wife in a jealous rage.
SAPO, the state secret police infamous to readers of crime fiction from Sweden*, steps in to take over the investigation of these crimes. Grohn is unable to prevent this from happening because he's under investigation for cutting corners on a (successful) drug bust he's just undertaken - the success being due to his unauthorised access to the drug squad's list of informers. Grohn collapses in pain and is carted off to hospital for an operation. Undeterred by his suspension and his illness, he begins to put several pieces together when he discovers (by an amazing coincidence!) that the burgled journalist is in the bed next to him. He's convinced that the SAPO theory of the crimes is completely wrong, and sets out to solve the case by any means he can, aided and abetted by his couple of reluctant accomplices and, later, an equally reluctant computer-hacker who happens to "owe" him (he even admits to himself that he's "read his Lisbeth Salander").
Despite the stop-start nature of the narrative - in which many characters are sketched, then disappear - the author gradually exerts quite a grip on the reader, as he cleverly brings together two entirely distinct plots and weaves them inextricably together. It's simple to guess the motivation for the crimes, but by his constant switching of chapters describing what his core half-dozen characters are doing, the author keeps up the pace and suspense effectively. He is particularly strong in his implicit condemnation of SAPO, whose chief investigator Martin Borg enters the case determined to pin the crimes on Islamic fundamentalists. Borg constructs a theory entirely based on his own preconceptions and by playing on the concerns of his superiors and the prosecutors ostensibly directing the investigation, goes to increasingly desperate extremes to deliver post-hoc evidence that will support his edifice. What then happens is a cataclysmic event that forces the two main stories in the book together and adds in more variants and twists to the mix. There is also a fascinating contrast between the high-tech, well-resourced SAPO approach and the illegal, shoestring operation run by Grohn from hospital.
Anger Mode is first of a trilogy, so there are a few ends left hanging in the air which the author presumably picks up in future volumes: time will tell. (A couple of these are rather clumsily introduced in the final few pages). It's an exciting and satisfying read, though the staccato style and the regular introducing and then dropping of characters needs a bit of acclimatization. I also find it rather weak when a plot depends on mystery drugs with such 100 per cent accuracy in their actions - not only that but also hackers who use "magic", albeit well-described, to be able to get into inaccessible databases. But this is definitely a book with something to say about our society, with plenty of humorous and telling asides: I enjoyed it very much, particularly Grohn's ability to stay one step ahead of all the games, not least in running rings round bureaucrats and other important non-entities. I'll certainly be reading the next two books when they are translated.
*For equally unflattering depictions of SAPO, see The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson, Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End by Leif G. W. Persson, Misterioso by Arne Dahl, Three Seconds by Roslund-Hellstrom, and (tangentially), The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell.
This started off okay, but soon lapsed into cliche, I'm afraid. Experienced, cynical, maverick detective - check.Young, naive,by the book, assistant - check. Weirdo computer geek - check. Devious, right wing, morally corrupt SWAT chief - check. Oddball criminals - check. There are more, but I won't go on as it might give away the plot, but having read a fair bit of Scandanavian noir all I can say is that this increasingly resembled a kind of compendium of various plotlines and characters from more original novels.
It's okay, readable, although not the most fluent translation I've read, unless Stefan Tegenfalk is really quite so clunky a writer, which I doubt.Of the Scandanavian novels I've read I would say I was most reminded of the Stieg Larsonn books, which I didn't like and Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen, which I loved,although the writing is much more pedestrian than the latter.
Overall,I'd say if you like the Larsonn books you might like this, but fans of Mankell, Indridasson, Nesbo and Lackberg might find too little character and too much unrealistic plot driven action.I recently read Midwinter Sacrifice by Mons Kallentoft which I enjoyed far more and which manages the balance between plot and character much better.This is the first part of a trilogy and the book ends with several unresolved plotlines, but I'm afraid I have no desire to read the next two books to find out what happens.
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Most recent customer reviews
Unable to believe in the characters or situations, just not my cup of tea.
just as the story was getting into its stride.Read more
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