Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Metamorphorses: To the Top of the Mountain, an Intercrime novel by Arne Dahl

To the Top of the Mountain is volume 3 of an Intercrime mystery series by Swedish writer Arne Dahl. The elite 7 detective A-Unit is reconstructed in Stockholm to investigate violent international crime after being disbanded due to major errors made in prior cases. This novel can be read by itself, and only a skeleton history of prior cases is presented in the story. Often in other crime series, the reader must wade through details of prior installments to understand later episodes. The story was so good that I want to get volumes 1 and 2 published in English as The Blinded Man and Bad Blood.

This 390 page novel is exciting but not fast-paced. It begins in a popular sports bar in Stockholm that caters to soccer fans. An international cast of characters representing ethnic, political, and criminal groups gather in the bar and noisy tension is high. A criminal event occurs that has ramifications for separate investigations involving members of the disbanded A-Unit who are still involved in police work but have been re-assigned to other detective divisions.

The A-Unit comes together when their detective assignments show a common thread. The former leader, Detective Superintendent Jan-Olav Hultin, who was forced into retirement, is visited at his lake-side house by the Head of Division from the National Police Board. Jan-Olav is offered the opportunity to bring his A-Unit back to life and follow the thread that involves cases of murder, international drug dealing, sub rosa internet pornography, violent pedophilia, neo-Nazi gang activity, Bosnian activism, violence in prison, and an individual detective’s criminal cross-over. The characters involved in these cases are fascinating involving implications about the current social situation in Sweden.

The A-Unit detectives are interesting, and Arne Dahl describes their backgrounds and motivations in a way that integrates personal historical information into the mystery story. A separate tale linked to the revived A-Unit activity emerges involving a young man and woman whose life together gains mythical proportions.

To the Top of the Mountain is a very good mystery/crime novel that is challenging to the reader to understand the intricacies of the plot. The excellent translation by Alice Menzes from Swedish to English facilitates the reader's understanding.  It is an example of an author imagining the  experience of characters in a culture that is both appealing in its geography and social history and disturbing in its description of violent interaction of ideological subgroups.

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