Three Seconds, by Roslund & Hellström
Roslund & Hellström
Roslund & Hellström is a Swedish crime fiction writing duo: journalist Anders Roslund, born 1961, and Börge Hellström, born 1957, a former criminal, now engaged in reform the Swedish correctional system. For the past ten years, Roslund has worked as a news reporter, culture journalist and news chief for Rapport News. Hellström is an ex-con and one of the founders of Kriminellas Revansch i Samhället (KRIS), an organisation fighting to prevent crime.
The main protagonist in their books is Evert Grens - perhaps the most grumpy of all Scandinavian crime fiction protagonists?
- Odjuret (2004) The Beast
- Boks 21 (2005) The Vault / Box 21
- Edward Finnigans upprättelse (2006)
- Flickan under gatan (2007)
- Tre sekunder (2009) Three Seconds (2011)
- Två soldater (2012) Two soldiers (2013)
Prizes & awards (selected)
Three seconds. The time it takes a bullet to travel the distance from point A to point B. Point A is a high-powered sniper rifle. Point B is a human head. For three more seconds, that is.
The Seconds by the Swedish crime writing duo Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström won the Swedish Crime Academy’s prize for best crime fiction novel in 2009. There were many excellent and a couple of really outstanding Swedish crime fiction novels written in 2009. This was one of the outstanding ones.
It is an extraordinary novel. A shocking novel. A brilliantly composed novel.
The story is the tale of one Piet Hoffman - a criminal. A high ranking criminal in an international Eastern European criminal organization. He organizes the smuggling of drugs from Poland into Sweden. He speaks in short, precise, pointed sentences. He uses whatever force is necessary to get the job done. He is very, very intelligent. His life depends on respect and credibility.
It is also the story of a strange, introverted, shy, smart police detective named Evert Grens. A fellow who is very hard to like. Who lives a life of bad memories and crime. A detective who never gives up. Who may be more than he seems, and who in this case will be set-up for something he doesn't deserve. Even if he is the kind of man nobody likes.
But Piet is something more as well. He is a very devoted husband and the father of two young sons. He loves his wife. And he adores his sons. They are the center of his universe. And, in addition he is something more. A snitch. An informer. An ex-con who for reasons unknown has been working undercover for the Stockholm police for nine years – risking his life virtually every second of those nine years. Knowing that his life would be worth nothing – knowing that if his cover was blown, or if he didn’t react the way he was supposed to, or if he said the wrong thing to the wrong person his life would be forfeited, death would be the only thing certain. His code name is “Paula.”
"Paula" has had his background fixed to give him street credibility. And he is good – actually excellent at what he does. So he has advanced quickly in the Polish mafia, and now he is given even more responsibility for the mafia. He is assigned to take over the “closed marked”. The market inside – the prison market. A big market – worth 8-9 million a day. So now he has to get himself arrested, placed in a maximum security prison, knock out the existing distribution system there, and start supplying the inmates with Polish drugs.
With a little help from the police and a little fixing of files it is possible to do this. Piet goes for it. He takes the assignment. He gets in. Then something happens – an event on the outside, a person getting too close to something that isn’t supposed to exist, to something that has to stay hidden. And so Paula is “blown”. By the police, after risking his life for them for nine years. An asset became suddenly a liability. And now Piet is no longer the hero of the Polish mafia, but a man who will be their next victim. Inside a maximum security prison. With nowhere to go, and with no friends. But suddenly with lots of enemies everywhere.
Three Seconds is among the very best crime fiction novels I have ever read. It is brilliantly plotted and moves fast along multiple inter-twined levels. It is suspenseful to the extreme - intense - and a roller-coaster ride from first to last page.
And as very good books do – along the way it raises some pertinent, important and exceedingly difficult questions in a painful way, by shining that brilliant light which art can shine on some quite unsettling facts we all know but prefer to not think too much about. This is a serious, one-of-a-kind crime fiction novel. Three Seconds is one of the best crime five fiction books in English in 2011. You can take my word for it: It is stunning.
Praise by Three Seconds:
"Americans are finally catching on to what thriller fans around the world already know — that the Swedish team of Roslund & Hellstrom is writing explosive crime novels .. " –USA Today
“[A] sprawling and often gripping thriller…. The gritty details of drug dealing, of prison life and of the relations between cops and informants are all rendered with convincing authority.”--Wall Street Journal
“Thrill-a-minute cat and mouse game…a grimly amoral tale.” --Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
“A complex and surprising novel… A riveting story that serious readers will find worthwhile and memorable. Three Seconds hits its target. It is a tour de force.” --New York Journal of Books
The Beast, by Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom
Anders Roslund, a prize winning investigative journalist, and Borge Hellstrom, an ex-criminal who works in rehabilitation is a relatively new Swedish crime writing duo. They publish in English under the name Roslund Hellstrom. The Beast is their debut book. It has won Scandinavia's most prestigious crime-writing award, The Glass Key for Best Crime Novel of the Year. It has also been a bestseller in Scandinavia, primarily Sweden.
The Beast is a greatly disturbing book, not least because it is written as fictionalized fact, but also due to its subject matter. It chronicles the activities of a sadistic, murderous pedophile in considerable detail using graphic and perhaps even brutal language.
A convicted killer who murdered two little girls in a basement in a Swedish town, escapes from prison. Detective Inspector Ewert Grens who handled the case, and interrogated the pedophile, knows that unless they catch him, no children in the area are safe and if he is not found quickly, he will kill again.
Despite a manhunt, the pedophile kills and mutilates another child in the town of Strengas - sparking off vigilante hysteria. Among those trying to take the law into their own hands is Frederik Steffansson, the vengeful father of the murdered girl, and the consequences of his actions are catastrophic.
The Beast is a tale of tragedy and revenge that is truly gripping, and all the more horrifying because this kind of thing probably can happen anywhere. The prose is razor-sharp. The action cross-cuts between prison, police and the outside world.
The Beast looks into a warped abyss of the human psyche and discusses a kind of crime that to most of us is one that we fear (if we have children) and are extremely disgusted by. It also illustrates the potentially serious consequences of letting people take the law in their own hands. This is a good book, but it is tough. It is a book you will either like a lot or not like at all. There is no in between with Roslund & Hellstrom's The Beast.
Two soldiers, by Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström
Two soldiers is the fifth novel by the Swedish award winning duo Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström translated into English. Roslund & Hellstrom is an interesting duo. Anders Roslund is a journalist and criminologist, while Börge Hellström is a former criminal who now works in crime prevention. And, of course, they both write. But it's not only the background that makes them interesting: It is also that they tend to deal with more «real», important, and pressing social problems than most other crime fiction writers, and with more emphasis on presenting the point of view of the criminals than what is common in the genre.
In previous books Roslund and Hellström have dealt with trafficking, the problems involved in using police informers, and similar issues. This book, set in Sweden, also deals with a very tough, very important social issue, namely the dynamics of youth gangs.
In the book we meet a group of gang members as well as other significant people in the suburb of Råby in Southern Stockholm. The gang is headed by Gabriel and Leon (the two soldiers of the title), now veterans eighteen years old that have traded drugs, and stolen and terrorized the community since before they became teenagers. Over time they have built an ecosystem of helpers – kids selling drugs, hang-arounds wanting to become members of the gang, gang members - and gradually increased their power. They started out calling themselves Råby Warriors. As we met them, they are in the process of transforming their operations in preparation for entering the big league: Råby Warriors are about to become Ghetto Soldiers!
To these guys violence isn't something that is an unfortunate byproduct of their «business». Rather, it is an integral part of their business: violence, terror, and havoc all play an important part in the branding process. The more violence and the more destruction, the greater the notoriety.
The young men in this book know very little of love, they have very little if any compassion, they don't care much about others and really not too much even about themselves. What they care about is respect and belonging. And their goal is to get to the top of the list where gangs are rated in terms of their dangerousness! So, ironically, the list the police use to keep track of and prioritize their work with the gangs actually motivates violence, as the gangs compete for position on the list and are willing to do virtually anything to get to the very top!
After the gang has engineered a simultaneous breakout of several high-security prisons, and taken a female corrections officer as hostage, Detective Superintendent Ewert Grens and his people get involved in the case of Gabriel and Leon and their gang in the horrible suburb of Raby. As it turns out, Ewald Grens, the strange loner, has a history with one of the boys. A strange, peculiar story that goes one generation back in time. Partly because of this, he is one of the very few people who understands how serious a threat this gang is to public safety, and how urgently important it is to stop them. But can he thwart the simple but ingenious scheme set in motion by the two young socio/psycho-paths and their followers - their Ghetto Soldiers?
Two soldiers is a frightening story of young asocial kids living outside normal society without any allegiance except to their "family" – their gang. It is a story of a brutal world where children have special value because they cannot be charged and punished for running drugs, guns and stolen property. A world where institutions we have set in place to protect kids have become reasons to exploit them. And a world where constant terror, burning of cars and property, violence, robberies and other forms of crime result in gradual removal of services, shops, and even protection from the police from huge suburban areas. This book relentlessly feeds readers with horrendous facts, making it a tough book to read.
Two soldiers is a difficult but intense and thought-provoking read. It tells stories about extreme marginalization that we perhaps need to hear, with a strong, insistent and what feels like an authentic voice. While it is entertaining and suspenseful, it's also more than just good entertainment.