Another Time, Another Life, by Leif GW Persson

by Peter

Another Time, US-edition

This fabulous crime fiction novel was deservedly awarded Best Swedish Crime Novel by the Swedish Academy of Crime in 2003. It’s a novel written in that very special, very critical, dwelling yet quite ironic and humorous style that has made its author, Leif GW Persson, one of the most beloved crime fiction writers in Scandinavia.

Again, we meet the main protagonist of Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End, the extraordinary Swedish detective Lars Martin Johansson. He is known in the Swedish police force as “the man who can see around corners”. He fortunately can’t, otherwise the series about him would be quite boring, I fear. Instead, he is a very logical and very persistent guy, who continues to work problems long after anyone with a little bit of sense would have given up; he’s a guy who thinks mostly outside the box. He has that uncanny, very disturbing ability to see the world around him the way it is rather than the way it is supposed to be.

Another Time, Persson - UK edition

Another Time, Another Life takes place in Sweden some time near the present, but involves two huge historical events: A terrorist attack on the German embassy in Sweden in 1975, and the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of the Stasi archives in Germany in 1989. It also involves a strange Swedish police investigation in 1989. So Another time, Another Life is a thriller spanning twenty-five years, and which is centered around and sheds some relatively interesting light on the still unsolved murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986.

In 1975, six young people took the entire staff of the West German embassy hostage, and demanded that the Baader-Meinhof members being held as prisoners in West Germany be released immediately. The siege ends with the deaths of two hostages and the wounding of several others, including the captors. How could it happen? Did somebody outside the embassy assist the terrorists? Who? How? Why?

In 1989 a Swedish civil servant is murdered, and the two leading detectives on the case, Anna Holt and Bo Jarnebring, find their investigation hastily shelved by an incompetent and possibly corrupt senior investigator, one Evert Bäckström – a cantankerous and prejudiced high- ranking police officer.

Now – in 1999, Lars Martin Johansson, who has just joined the Swedish Security Police in a leading position, decides to tie up a few loose ends left behind by his predecessor: specifically, two files on Swedes who had allegedly collaborated on the 1975 assault on the West German embassy, one of whom turned out to be the murder victim in 1989. So Johansson reopens the investigation and follows the leads of the old Holt/Jarnebring investigation. It quickly becomes evident that they take him quickly up the Swedish political ladder, right to the top…

Another Time, Another Life is a marvelous crime fiction novel. It has a very intelligently constructed plot, very rich characters, and is told in a slow, delightful pace – just right for the story. Leif GW Persson spins a fascinating yarn and along the way shares with his readers a large number of cynical, delightfully wicked and very humorous observations. This is an elegant, smart Scandinavian crime fiction novel that is borderline spectacular, and which I am sure will have a very long half-life!

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