An underpowered thriller, lacking in momentous moments

2012-03-07 00:00

CELL 8, the latest offering from Swedish crime-writing duo, Roslund and Hellstrom, is constructed around an intriguing-enough premise.

A man going by the name of John Schwartz, who earns his living as a singer on a Scandinavian cruise ship, is ­arrested after a physical confrontation with a drunken passenger.

When the ship docks in Stockholm, he is taken in for questioning on what appears to be a straightforward ca-se of aggravated assault, until a routine background check reveals an astonishing fact — the man the police are holding in custody is not who he claims to be, but is instead John Meyer Frey, a convicted killer who supposedly died awaiting execution in the United States six years before.

When the U. S. authorities get wind of his Lazarus-like resurrection, they immediately demand that Frey be extradited so that the terms of his sentence can be carried out.

Detective Superintendent Ewert Grens, who is in charge of the case, is opposed to this request because he is not entirely convinced that the man is guilty of the crime for which he has been convicted, and also because Sweden has no death penalty, but he is overruled by his political masters.

From here, the story moves somewhat mechanically between past and present, Sweden and the U. S. as the truth behind Frey’s supposed death slowly emerges, and the book lurches towards its not-altogether convincing twist at the end.

Roslund and Hellstrom are normally reliable performers, but this time around their tale seems oddly underpowered, and lacking in momentous moments.

While the curmudgeonly Grens is an interesting enough character, he is not called upon to do a great deal and disappears entirely from the story­ line way before the last page.

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