Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End, by Leif GW Persson

This is an interesting Swedish crime fiction novel; a book that to some extent is a cult novel in Sweden, and that has attracted much attention because it provides a possible explanation for the assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme in February 1986. The author, Leif GW Persson, is a professor of criminology at Rikspolisstyrelsen (National Police Board) in Sweden and one of Sweden’s bestselling crime fiction writers. Some believe the explanation to be the truth or close to the truth, others that it is completely misleading. Be that as it may – this is a book of fiction based on an actual event, and as such doesn’t need to be true. Instead, it needs to be entertaining and fun to read, and that it is, and more.

The intriguing and somewhat lyrically named story – deliciously told, with lots of humor and with live, fallible and flawed characters – starts with the apparent suicide of a young American, John Krassner, visiting Stockholm. Krassner was working on a book detailing the exploits of his uncle, Col. John Buchanan, an OSS agent in the years following WWII. The young man has seemingly fallen from a window in a student dorm, and his loose shoe killed a little dog taken for an evening stroll by its owner. Had the man been Swedish, the case might have stopped there. But he wasn’t – he was an American. So, to be on the safe side, a small investigation is launched. As it turns out, the search of his room reveals a few strange things. Even so, the case is classified as a suicide.

Then, by accident, police inspector Lars Martin Johansson and his colleagues get involved in the case. And as Johansson starts to look into it, he unearths more than he bargained for, and a larger and quite complex context for the apparent suicide quickly emerges. There is seemingly a huge puzzle surrounding the event – a puzzle that involves international espionage, attempted cover-ups, greed, and other ingredients. A high-ranking Swedish politician known by the code name “Pilgrim” features prominently in the puzzle. Also, several factors seem to point towards incompetent police work and possibly behind the scenes involvement and disinformation by Sweden’s secret police. The deeper Johansson looks, the more he sees that simply doesn’t add up the way it is supposed to.

Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End is at the same time fascinating and shocking. We embark on a journey deep into the underbelly of the Swedish police force, and meet lazy, incompetent and perverse police officers concerned mostly with position, power, pay, comradeship, drinking and sex. We meet cynical politicians and spin masters in controlling positions.

It’s a dark novel and a dark journey which not only seems very realistic but also masterfully recreates the blanket of uncertainty, the multiple ways insights get lost in huge and complex organizational environments where most actors have their own agendas. Fortunately there is also sarcasm, black satire, dark humor, mind boggling insights, and dialogues that make you laugh out loud. It is a wonderful novel, a riveting anti-procedure police procedural, a psychological drama, and an adventurous journey into a murky landscape we can perhaps only hope doesn’t exist but most likely does. The publication of Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End by Leif GW Persson is one of the major crime fiction events of 2010!

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