cover image In Bad Company

In Bad Company

Viveca Sten, trans. from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy. Amazon Crossing, $14.95 trade paper (506p) ISBN 978-1-5420-2183-8

In Sten’s uneven ninth entry in her Sandhamn Murders series (after 2020’s In the Name of Truth), Swedish mother Mina struggles to lead a normal life with her physically abusive husband, Andreis Kovac, a Bosnian refugee emotionally scarred as a child by the Serbs’ ethnic cleansing. Meanwhile, prosecutor Nora Linde is building a case against Andreis, who’s heavily involved in Stockholm’s drug trade. Nora is counting on Mina to testify against her husband, but the case hits a snag when Mina and her infant son go into hiding to escape Andreis’s wrath. The narrative nicely reveals the stresses in Swedish society: the police are hamstrung by bureaucratic reorganization, social workers face drastic financial cuts and fail to support abused women, and nearly every couple grapples with two often competing careers. Unfortunately, shallow supporting characters and several overly complicated subplots undercut Sten’s searing indictment of spousal abuse. Fans of Scandinavian noir can safely pass on this one. (Jan.)