Book review: Lifetime, by Liza Marklund

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 June, 2013, 5:16pm


by Liza Marklund

Atria Books

Swedish author Liza Marklund's sleuth-protagonist recalls Californian Sue Grafton's redoubtable Kinsey Millhone of the long-running "Alphabet" series.

Both are tough female investigators, and both come with sprawling back-stories woven from family and personal issues.

With Annika Bengtzon, we get a compelling personality on the trail of the Scandinavian noir bad guys. She has all the flaws, foibles and virtues any human can possess, notably obnoxiousness and recklessness. But this being pulp-thriller territory, she is, above all, sharp and courageous.

The gripping Lifetime is the seventh novel in the Annika Bengtzon series, although all the books can be read as standalones.

Annika - a hapless intern in the first book, and head of her newspaper's crime section by this instalment - is a journalist who is balancing parenthood and marriage with her literally bloody work. The sky falls in for Annika when her husband leaves her for another woman, and is threatening to take their children.

Meanwhile, two cops are called to a shooting in Central Stockholm: senior police officer David Lindholm has been killed, shot once in the head and once in the groin. His widow, Julia Lindholm - an acquaintance of Annika's - is blood-splattered and distraught, claiming the "other woman" has taken their young son.

Only Annika doubts Julia's guilt, and undertakes her probe entirely solo, because the police and everyone else have already leapt to judgment. Amid this, Annika also has to pull her chaotic personal life together.

The first Scandinavian Noir writer to have a global impact was Henning Mankell. A few years ago he did Marklund a big favour by dubbing her "the queen of Scandinavian crime fiction".

Her work does not have his subtlety, or the late Stieg Larsson's breathtaking pacing and audacious plotting, but nevertheless Annika has become an important player in the genre.