Postcard Killers is the result of an interesting collaborative effort between James Patterson, with a record number of New York Times bestsellers, and Liza Marklund, well established Swedish crime fiction writer. Nothing out of the ordinary for James Patterson – he collaborates extensively – but a daring move by Liza Marklund. Two quite different writing styles, two very different backgrounds.
Perhaps not so surprising, the Patterson style of thriller making won! Postcard Killers has short sentences in short paragraphs in short chapters. And it moves at a blistering pace, if possible even faster than the usual Patterson bestseller.
The story is also well plotted. It seems a young serial killing couple is traveling all over Europe. In each of the countries they visit, they kill a young couple. The murders are bloody and brutal, and after they have killed, the murderers take photos of the dead victims. The photos are sent as postcards to newspaper reporters. The killers want publicity and soon get it. In the media they are nicknamed the Postcard Killers.
Very little is known about them. They are extremely professional. No traces are left after their horrendous deeds. No DNA, no fingerprints, no pictures that make identification possible. Nothing. They kill, they leave, they send a postcard, they steal and sell valuables belonging to their victims and clean out their credit cards. Then they move on, to the next country, the next victims.
Now they have arrived in Sweden. A female Swedish newspaper reporter, Dessie Larsson, receives their postcard. That means someone in Stockholm is going to die. On the back it says:
“To be or not to be
That is the question
We’ll be in touch”
She gets in touch with the police. The same night an American cop, NYPD detective Jacob Kanon, knocks on her door. He has pursued the postcard killers all over Europe after they killed his daughter Kimmy in Rome, always one or several steps behind. He is desperate but extremely determined. Even if Hell freezes he will continue to pursue them until the bitter end.
Against her will, Dessie is drawn into the case. And reluctantly she is drawn towards the strange, single-minded detective from America as well. But what can she do? Why has she been singled out by the killers? What do they want, and what do they want from her?
As the stubborn detective and the resourceful reporter close in on the Postcard Killers, we follow them on a twisting and turning journey of action, brutality and obsession. Into a reality where art is lived and made in life and through death by the charming, attractive, calculating, cunning and raving mad serial killers.
Postcard Killers will, of course, be panned by a number of critics, as it provides a great opportunity for big-name bashing. And, for sure, it does have its weaknesses: Some elements of story are fairly implausible; the characters are a little stereotypical. But it is actually a great crime fiction novel; not the best I’ve ever read, but solid, fast-paced, with some smart twists and turns, and quite suspenseful. Even though the characters could have been more firmly drawn and feel a little distanced, I liked them. Postcard Killers is better than I had expected, and a book I enjoyed reading. Also, it is a book I do not hesitate to recommend.
(Review based on the Norwegian edition – Postcard Killers is available for at Amazon US)
Here’s an interview with the two authors: