cover image Pen 33

Pen 33

Roslund & Hellström, trans. from the Swedish by Elizabeth Clark Wessel. Quercus, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-68144-057-6

Roslund and Hellström’s blistering sixth series novel to be published in the U.S. (after Three Minutes) opens with the vicious rape and murder of two nine-year-old girls by a psychopath, Bernt Lund, who has escaped from custody. The authors explore the ramifications of Lund’s crime from multiple viewpoints, including those of 60ish Det. Sgt. Ewert Grens, who’s disillusioned and cynical; Grens’s 40-year-old assistant, Sven Sundkvist, who’s burning out; and Fredrik Steffansson, the father of one of the victims. Steffansson, who was abused as a child, kills Lund and is put on trial for murder. In one of Sweden’s most high-profile trials, ambitious prosecutor Lars Ågestam feels he must demand life imprisonment for Steffansson, even though doing so will likely end his career. In addition to subjecting readers to the stomach-wrenching minutiae of prison life, Roslund and Hellström force them to consider who in this denunciation of governmental policies and practices are the victims and who are the criminals. The authors’ most chilling observation: these characters “are all somewhere among us.” Hellström, an ex-convict, died earlier this year. (Dec.)