Review - Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End - Leif G.W. Persson

Author:   Leif G.W. Persson
Publisher:   Doubleday
Copyright:   2010
ISBN:   978-0-385-61418-4
No of Pages:   551

Book Synopsis:

It begins with the apparent suicide of a young American student in Stockholm. What is at first an open and shut case of suicide quickly leads to a complex web of international espionage, treachery and ultimately the legendary murder of the Swedish Prime Minister, Olof Palme. Dogged by the incompetence of their colleagues and the murkiness of the political aspects of the case, a few good and honourable policemen must make their way through a world of corruption, violence and prejudice if they are to survive and discover the truth behind the greatest trauma to hit Sweden in living memory.

Book Review:

As Leif G.W. Persson is a new author for me, I was interested to read the bio in this book:

"Leif Persson is the Grand Master of Scandinavian crime fiction.  Over three decades, he has taken a scalpel to the political and social mores of Swedish society in dark, complex and satirical crime novels.  His work melds the social realism of a Balzac or a Dickens with the hard-boiled street smarts of a James Ellroy."

Whatever that means.....  More importantly, the blurb eventually goes on to note that he is the author of nine novels, with BETWEEN SUMMER'S LONGING and WINTER'S END being the first translated into English.

This is a massive door stopper of a book at 551 pages, and I will confess to being more than a little concerned about how much of that could possibly be filled by the story of a doubtful suicide of an unknown American in Stockholm.  But this book has one of the all-time great opening sequences.  One of those "right, let's get into this!" sort of opening sequences which just grabbed interest and seemed to set things off at a snorting pace.  From there, well things got ... odd. I've been thinking about this for a while now and I suspect that's going to be the best explanation I can come up with.  Before things got very odd.  Profoundly odd really.  The plot is dense to the point of condensed treacle.  It seems to head off in all sorts of directions in short, sharp bursts of viewpoints, snippets, back story, future stories and around in circles and back down laneways and into blind alleys to the point where, frankly, I wasn't sure which book I was still reading about half-way through.

I suspect that the author has a tremendous sense of humour though, and there's a great deal of laugh out loud dark, satirical humour here. That's not to say that the point is humorous - far from it really.  It's alternatively funny, shocking, thought-provoking and quite confrontational.  There also seems to be a cast of thousands.  There were people popping in and out of the story all over the place, and threads wandering in and out of the narrative like they'd got lost in the post somewhere.  Combine that jack-in-a-box behaviour with the humour and I did develop a sneaking feeling that we were actually playing some sort of written form of "Whack a Mole".  I understand this is book one in a trilogy however, and it could be that a lot of the ins and outs of CIA operatives, secret papers, code names, secret police, corrupt and incompetent governments, Cold War complications and whatever else I've forgotten was going on, will be clarified in the later books once they are released.  And here's a quiet plea to please translate the things in order - without too long a delay - so that readers who are interested have got a hope of clinging to the threads!

To be perfectly honest, I finished this book with absolutely NO idea what I was supposed to take away from it.  I'm still profoundly confused about what was going on.  But if part of the destination is the journey, then this was a ride no doubt about that.  I loved the satirical tone, and I didn't mind the odd madcap sort of style.  I can live with the idea that I've finished the book with very little idea of what it was all about.  Whilst I will be waiting for the following two books, this isn't necessarily a book I'd recommend with no reservations.  I think that a reader of BETWEEN SUMMER'S LONGING AND WINTER'S END who enjoys it, is going to be somebody that is open to something very different, happy with a rollercoaster of a ride to more questions than answers, and keen to try something that, to be perfectly frank, is completely and utterly different. And just that little bit odd.

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