English language translation by Neil Smith
Emily Bestler Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451606928, $25.00, www.simonsays.com
This novel, the 6th by this author but only the second published in the US [in addition to one co-written with James Patterson], features Annika Bengtzon, reporter for the Evening Post, one of the main evening papers in Stockholm. The tale opens on a wintry evening in December, as the Nobel Prize festivities are about to begin. In the banquet hall, things suddenly take a shocking turn as shots ring out. One of the first victims is the Israeli co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in medicine, the second a woman who is a member of the Nobel Prize Committee. Three others are also wounded as the shooter, a woman, makes her escape. Who was the main target, and who the collateral damage? If the man, does anti-Semitism come into it, or is it the fact that the work for which he was being honored dealt with controversial stem cell research? If the woman, what could possibly have been the motive?
Annika is more than just 'present at the scene:' Not only did the female victim look directly at her as she lay dying on the floor, quite near to Annika, but the woman who shot them made eye contact with her seconds before the shots were fired. As such, she is the key witness for the police, who place a gag order on her immediately. So she has exclusive information, which she cannot use, in the aftermath of which she is placed on six-month suspension from the newspaper, as well as in the sights of the killer, apparently an American assassin known as "the Kitten."
The title refers to the document prepared by/for Alfred Nobel, bits and pieces of whose life are interspersed, referencing his legacy, both as he saw it and as it has perhaps been perverted.
Annika, married and with two small children, has been somewhat ambivalent about her impending move to a country home, as well as going through rough patches in her marriage. Now she is forced to spend more time at home, with the resulting increased tension there. This is made worse by the fact that her husband, a government employee, is actively working on legislation aimed at, in Annika's view, at least, "restricting people's private space with surveillance and more legislation," a subject apparently dear to the heart of this author [as it is to many others, obviously, now more than ever].
This is an exciting, well-written tale, with intriguing characters, and it is recommended.
S. J. Rozan
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780250006936, $15.99, www.stmartins.com
Lydia Chin, young New York private investigator, although she is what she refers to as an ABC [American-Born Chinese], cannot imagine why a new client wants to hire for an investigation dealing with contemporary Chinese art [what he refers to as a "cutting edge collecting area" in the West], freely admitting that she has no clue about art. Despite her reluctance, she agrees to accept his retainer to check out rumors of some new pieces of art by one Chau Chun, known as the Ghost Hero. This despite the fact that Chau is believed to have died 20 years ago in the uprising at Tienanmen Square.
This particular artist's work was known to contain "hidden" political symbols, and the putative new work contains current political references. There is a suspicion, then, that the work is contemporary, not created over two decades earlier. But the potential value of the Ghost Hero's "ghost paintings" is enormous, since in the past his work was worth half a million dollars, give or take.
As always with work by this author, there is a full quotient of clever, witty dialogue from clever, witty people - well, a few people in particular: Lydia; her cousin, Linus, tech geek [read "hacker"] extraordinaire; Bill Smith, a mid-fifties white guy [referred to by Lydia's disapproving mother as the "white baboon" - can you tell she doesn't like him?], also a p.i. and over the past few years Lydia's partner; and Jack Lee, a 2d generation ABC from the suburban Midwest and art expert as well as a p.i., in this case having also been hired [by an unnamed client] to investigate the possibility of the existence of the self-same paintings. The stakes are raised when the investigation sparks the interest of the wrong people, and bullets and threats start to fly.
Parenthetically, I have to admit to some small confusion on my part keeping the Asian names straight, but ultimately that is of small moment, as in the end the author makes everything clear. Brilliantly plotted, and with protagonists the reader cares about and roots for, the book is highly recommended.
Guilty by Degrees