Fast, punchy thrills

2012-03-14 00:00

APART from sports biographies, nothing quite grips me like a good crime thriller. So it was with great anticipation that I took to highly rated Swedish author Jens Lapidus.

The book didn’t disappoint. Being a criminal-defence lawyer, Lapidus brings a feeling of authenticity into his writing, which draws you to his characters, making you feel as if you are living the story.

Characterisation and plotting are fast and furious, and show the moral vacuum of gangster life, down to the nitty gritty of the gym and drug regime and the banal label-consciousness of his protagonists.

The book is also distinctive from a stylistic point of view, as Lapidus has consciously chosen a fast, punchy ­realist style salted with slang to mirror the aggressive lifestyle of his characters. Much credit lies with the translator, Astri von Arbin Ahlander, for managing to find English equivalents for the vast array of specialist crime and other slang terms.

This book follows the stories of three men attracted to the seeming easy money they can obtain from the cocaine trade: JW, the “Swedish Talented Mr Ripley”; Jorge, a Chilean incarcerated on drugs charges; and Mrado, a Serbian Mafia hitman, with chapters of the book alternating the points of views of these three characters, interspersed with extracts from court documents, relating to the offences carried out during the course of this book.

JW is a young student from a working-class provincial background, who has decided to reinvent himself as one of the Stockholm brat pack, funding his nights out with high society by working the night shifts as a taxi driver with Abdulkarim’s taxi firm. Jorge’s family emigrated to Sweden when he was a child, and he grew up in difficult circumstances in Sollentuna, an unlovely Stockholm suburb, and took to a life of crime, ending up in prison after dealing drugs with Mrado and the Yugoslavian Mafia. Mrado’s family also emigrated to Sweden, but Mrado went back to Yugoslavia to serve under the notorious Arkan in the war, then returned to continue his work near the top of the Yugoslavian Mafia tree.

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