It’s a pleasure to read books by experienced, masterful story tellers. Here are two.
Daniel Silva published “The Black Widow” in 2016. It’s so up to date that he feels the need to explain that the linking of Islamic terrorists to the Brussels district of Molenbeek in the book was coincidental. The attacks in Paris and Brussels that were indeed carried out by residents of Molenbeek occurred after the book was written. It’s the type of coincidence that results from a thorough study of the relevant places and political situations and makes for a convincing plot.
The black widow of the title is a young woman who seeks revenge against the Western powers after her fiance is killed fighting in Syria. There are such young women, but in this case she’s an Arabic-speaking Israeli who is sent undercover to identify a terrorist mastermind known only as Saladin.
The Dying Detective, published by Leif G.W. Persson, also in 2016, shows that my decision to avoid Scandinavian authors was too hasty. As the title indicates, the story isn’t especially cheerful, but it isn’t permeated by gloom as are some other books I’ve read by Scandinavian writers. Perhaps because Persson is a criminologist, his plot is long on following trails of evidence and police work, and short on creating a depressing atmosphere. He has considerately set the action in the months June to September, so we aren’t forced to accompany the characters on interminable slogs through snow.
The eponymous Stockholm detective is a sixty-seven year old retiree who is given a clue to the solution of a cold case while in the hospital recovering from a mild stroke. Although the criminal raped and murdered a child, the case is subject to a statute of limitations that wasn’t modified in time for this murderer to be prosecuted, even if he’s identified. But since Johansson’s time is now his own, he can delve into whatever interests him, and his old friends and colleagues are willing and able to help him.
Johansson hails from the north, but instead of taking advantage of this connection to immerse the reader in the usual horrors of a northern climate, Persson merely reminds us that it’s important for Johansson to have full use of his right arm in time for elk hunting season.