Haparanda mysteries part 1.
Hans Rosenfeldt is one of the most prolific cotemporary Swedish crime authors and he is widely respected and considered as one of those artists who made Nordic crime fiction known to the whole world through the legendary television show Bron/Broen which he has co-written along with a number of skilled native screenwriters such as Camilla Ahlgren and Torleif Hoppe. The series had a profound impact on the European audiences and introduced one of the most identifiable detective protagonists, the erratic Saga Noren played by Sofia Helin in one of her most popular roles in her career so far. The show ran for four seasons and its monumental commercial success led to several remakes from producers all over the globe. Rosenfeldt has also created another prominent crime TV show, Marcella starring Anna Friel as the titular English police officer who often has to cut corners in order to solve the gruesome cases that she investigates. Rosenfeldt's talent shined once again in a production that stood out due to its complex plotline and memorable characters.
Apart from his work as a screenwriter, the Swedish author is also the man behind another notorious fictional creation, the temperamental criminal profiler, Sebastian Bergman in a series that he has co-written along with another eminent crime writer, Michael Hjorth. Hjorth is another proficient Swedish author and screenwriter and his work in television includes several noteworthy productions such as Fjallbackamorden and Alex, an explosive crime show starring Dragomir Mrsic (Easy Money, Edge of Tomorrow) as a rogue, corrupted cop crawling the streets of Gothenburg, dealing with the local underworld in various, shady ways. Sebastian Bergman book series is comprised of seven novels so far and some of the stories have been adapted into television under the -original- title Den Fördömde (English translation: The Condemned). The novels are meticulously written police procedurals with some added elements from other genres, mainly thriller and horror ones. Both the books and the show have been more than well-received in Sweden and the writing duo offered some electrifying, hair-rising stories featuring a rather unlikeable, though efficient as a professional, protagonist. Rolf Lassgård nailed the character and watching him is on screen is a pure delight.
Cry Wolf is the beginning of a new series by Rosenfeldt who this time writes solo. The result is gratifying even for the most demanding crime faction fanatics. The story is set in Haparanda, known as Sweden's "most Finnish town", as it lies adjacent to the border between the two neighboring countries and many of its residents speak Suomi. Haparanda is a little town with a population of a little less than 5.000 people, though it carries a unique history as some decades earlier it used to be a city teeming with life. The gradual decline in several important domains left the town to slowly degrade and today is just another northern Swedish little city that struggles with a number of significant problems. Rosenfeldt lends Haparanda its own voice and the reader gets the chance to hear the city talk in its own distinctive manner, an innovative idea that pays off as we learn more about Haparanda's inhabitants through the city's narrative intervention in the story. The setting becoming a character of its own is a trope that we rarely encounter in the works of the genre and Rosenfeldt adroitly incorporates those interjecting chapters in the overall text, adding a sense of melancholy as the town chronicles its own deterioration through the recent years.
The story begins literally with a bang as in one of the first chapters we witness a massive shootout in Rovaniemi between Russian and Finnish gangsters in a drug deal gone wrong that results in the death of seven people. The instigator of this fatal incident, a man named Vadim is the only one who leaves the scene alive, though injured in his back, and he takes with him both the drugs, a large batch of amphetamines, and the money, a hefty amount of about 30 million kroner. Subsequently, Vadim is killed in a hit-and-run accident that takes place near a village, a few kilometers outside Haparanda. His body is then eaten by a wolf that is poisoned and dies a little later. The local authorities find the human remains in the wolf's belly and they are drawn into a convoluted case that involves Russian mafia, an ultra-efficient female hitman who is sent to Haparanda in order to retrieve the drugs and the money, and a number of locals who become embroiled in the case mainly because of greed and their suppressed desire for a better life, away from this godforsaken place.
The protagonist is Hannah Wester, a 54-year-old police officer with a troubled personal history as she lost her baby girl, Elin, several years ago and the trauma is still haunting her. Her marriage with Thomas is in a crisis for reasons which are revealed to the reader through the course of the story. We are also introduced to the members of the local police force such as the police chief, Gordon, who is romantically entangled with Hannah, in a peculiar relationship that doesn't truly satisfy either one of them. Nevertheless, Hannah and Gordon's professional liaison is not significantly affected by this and their collaboration runs smoothly as they strive to make sense of a labyrinthine case that becomes ever more ghastly as time passes by and the usual tranquil serenity of Haparanda is violently shattered by several bodies that turn up and deem the case one of the most challenging that the local authorities ever had to deal with. We get to sympathize with Hannah as she desperately attempts to find an equilibrium between her personal challenges and the professional ones and her character is naturally and plausibly developed throughout the novel.
Rosenfeldt adopts the multiple perspective narrative and he handles it effortlessly and effectively as we watch the plot unfold through the eyes of several characters that become entangled in this meandering scenario. Some of them are likeable and others not, thus the reader is not always rooting for the main players as in many cases their motives are contemptible, even though tenable and human all the way. The author is careful to keep the pace even and the amount of the information regarding the main plotline as well as the characters' background is steadily conveyed to the reader who has the time to digest and figure out what is going on and to whom. The description of the action scenes is breathtaking and proves that Rosenfeldt is a true master in portraying gritty sequences, something that the fans of his work as a screenwriter know very well. I also enjoyed the character of Katja who is something of a super-villain, a woman who is ready to kill at any time if that is what is needed in order for her to complete the task that she had been given by her nefarious boss.
To conclude, I consider Cry Wolf to be a novel in the same vein to the Sebastian Bergman series in terms of mood and tone, while it also introduces some engaging main characters for whom the reader would like to read more about in the future installments. I hope that we will soon have the chance to read the second volume in the series and that the quality level of the book will remain in the same high standards as set by the first one. Fans of Nordic crime fiction should get their hands on a copy as soon as possible and those who are familiar with Rosenfeldt's work through his career as a screenwriter will have the opportunity to relish his prowess as a novelist. If I had to give his book an honest rating I would go for a solid 4/5 stars.