Review: Liza Marklund – Last Will

Liza Marklund was one of my finds of last year. The excellent Vanished, featuring reporter Annika Bengtzon was a well-paced intelligent LWillthriller with an interesting protagonist. As I mentioned in my post, the series has been both written and translated out of chronological order which can make it confusing for the reader. However, a useful guide to the series can be found at the blog, Crimescraps and as my latest read Last Will shows, each book can easily be read as a standalone.

At the end of Vanished Annika had had a fling with an unhappily married man and was pregnant with his child. In Last Will, however, it is now Annika who is in a failing marriage where the pressures of work and children are pushing her and her husband Thomas apart. She attends the Nobel prize ceremony with Bosse, a journalist from a rival newspaper and is witness to a mass shooting. Annika catches a glimpse of the gunwoman’s face which immediately makes her a police witness and she is therefore barred from reporting the event. This brings her into conflict with her newspaper and she is put on indefinite leave. Feeling isolated in her new suburban family house, Annika starts investigating the shooting which leads her into the labyrinth-like politics of biotech research.

This is a complexly plotted book that nevertheless grips the reader. The mystery of the shooting is the central story and we get the narrative of both Annika and the shooter, who is a satisfyingly ruthless and compelling character. Annika, as usual, is an admirable for her tenacity and her fragile grip on her personal circumstances. She is taken advantage of by her selfish friend Anne, ignored by her husband and runs into conflict with a new neighbour. Her character is so painfully true to life and you feel for Annika as her plans for a future with her family begin to fall apart. She is clearly trying to do the right thing by moving into a new home and resisting the advances of Bosse, whom she feels attracted to.

The book is also interspersed with extracts relating to the life of Alfred Nobel. The book would have been as good a read without them, but they were interesting enough and did relate to the plot. I’ve read a couple of novels recently about the machinations of the biotech industry and this book had the feel of one that had been extensively researched. It was particularity good on the rivalries that lie behind advancement of medicine and the difficulties that women face in the industry.

The popularity of Swedish crime fiction is sometimes dismissed as riding on the coattails of Steig Larsson and Henning Mankell, but as this book shows, some of the best crime fiction being written today comes from Scandinavia. And luckily for us fans of Marklund, there is a new book, Lifetime, coming out in April. As with earlier books in the series, this will be translated by Neil Smith.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Transworld.

32 thoughts on “Review: Liza Marklund – Last Will

  1. The problem is … there are too many good Swedish writers and I want to try them all. I did read and like Camilla Lackberg. The only Mankell I read was good, and I want to continue. I did not like the Larssen books (or at least not to the extent that they were hyped), but I guess the fact that I had to read all 1800 pages of the trilogy says something for them. I have several other Swedish writers in my TBR piles.

    Great review. The book sounds like it has a lot of good aspects, yet not quite so dark as some Swedish fiction. I will put Marklund on my list for the Wonderful Annual Book Sale later in the year.


    1. I’m with you on the Larssen. Liked the first, second was OK, didn’t finish the third. I would definitely recommend Marklund. She’s one of the best.

      This ‘Wonderful Annual Book Sale’ sounds interesting Tracy…..


      1. I know. It happens every September as a fund raiser for Planned Parenthood, and you can often get decent copies for very little money. I have been going for at least 20 years. I look forward to it for months in advance, keep a list of books and authors I want, and drive my family crazy.


  2. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – Excellent review as ever I really like Liza Marklund and one of the things I like best about it is that she follows several plot threads quite effectively. And I like the blend of ‘home scenes’ and ‘work scenes’ we see in Annika Bengtzon’s life. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one and I too am looking forward to reading the next instalment.


  3. Thank you for the review. It made me want to read this book, but also the author, who had been on my radar for a while, as I’m a real Scandicrime nut. My tendency is to start w/ the first book in any series, so that’s what I’ll probably do. Thanks again!


    1. Hi Jeremy. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog. I’m going to check out yours too in a sec. For some series I like to start at the beginning (I’m working my way through Camilleri’s Montalbano that way). But I like it when you don’t *have* to and this series is perfect for that.


  4. kathy d.

    I red Red Wolf and Last Will. Both were well-plotted and unputdownable. I like Annika’s character. She’s more like a real person with insecurities and problems in her family life. Things don’t go as planned, and problems abound. Last Will dealt with the very controversial topic of animal testing, which over here is an issue and the focus of several campaigns.
    I had some interesting emails with Maxine Clarke on this issue. She told me that there are restrictions in Britain on animal testing. I hope one day it won’t be necessary, but as long as there is not a cure for cancer, I get it. At least it should be very humanely done with the least trauma to the animals.
    I look forward to Liza Marklund’s next book, while I keep reading other Nordic noir.
    Finished the second Hanne Wilhelmsen book by Anne Holt and the newest Irene Huss — The Golden Calf, by Helene Thurston.


    1. Yes – the animal testing part of the book was distressing to read about. I didn’t realise the controls in the UK were stricter than in the US. It’s certainly an emotive subject. I’m looking forward to reading more Anne Holt and Tursten this year too.


  5. Keishon

    I set this book aside. This author can be hit or miss for me. I found Last Will to have very annoying side stories and I usually I don’t mind the personal lives of the characters but in this book – that is not working out. I find them boring. But the writing is pretty good and I plan to finish it. I just wish the story was more linear and more focused on the crime but I realize the main character is a journalist so there you go…..I’m looking for a police procedural and this is not it by a long shot.


    1. That’s interesting Keishon but I always say that I’m glad we all don’t like the same books otherwise life would be very boring indeed. I suppose the non-linear plots was one of the attractions for me.


  6. The Little Reader Library

    So glad there is a new one coming soon! I really like this series, I think I’ve read three of them now, still a couple to go back to. I found the animal testing bits hard to read and think I had to skim that a little. I’m glad you enjoyed this one too.


  7. Anwen

    Hi Sarah,

    Sounds like a book I will have to search out – though its rare for the bioscience industry to be portrayed accurately, this sounds better than the average portrayal from your review. What little Scandinavian crime I’ve read I’ve enjoyed. A new departure for me.


  8. My Dad is more of a Scandinavian crime nut than I am and since he and my Mum have both just upgraded to Kindle Fires I’ve borrowed their old one which is stocked full with a couple of Liza Marklund books (not this one though) but also loads of Hakan Nesser, Anne Holt, Mankell etc. I will be kept busy! Looking forward to them. I agree that lots of people dismiss Scandinavian crime fiction as just a bit of a trend because of the success of Mankell, Larsson and Nesbo, but think that those people have probably not explored the genre properly because there are so many lesser known gems to enjoy!


    1. Lucky you Marie to have a kindle stocked with some great reads. I’ll look forward to the reviews on your site. They are all good authors that you mentioned. I particularly like Hakan Nesser so it’s be interesting to hear what you think of him. He has an unusual style which can divide readers.


  9. kathy d.

    Gens is right! There are so many good Nordic mysteries. I just finished the second book in Anne Holt’s Hanne Wilhelmsen series, Blessed are those who Thirst and Helene Thurston’s The Golden Calf, with Irene Huss. Nesser’s books are excellent. Asa Larsson, Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell, are good. Nearly all of Icelandic Arnaldur Indridason’s Erlendur books are excellent. The two books by Agnete Friis and Lene Kaaberbol are good and unusual. And so on. I’m leaving out some good writers.
    I eagerly await Liza Marklund’s next book. Hers are unputdownable, no matter the sidelines. Some of those may vary in interesting readers (I didn’t need to read most of the Nobel letters and the animal testing parts upset me, but I think they needed to be said.)


  10. Gems is exactly the right word isn’t it Kathy? And you’ve chosen to books that are on my list to read as soon as possible- ‘Blessed are those who Thirst’ and ‘The Golden Calf’. I’m looking forward to them both having read a review of each recently. Marklund is I think one f my favourite writers at the moment along with Hakan Nesser.


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  12. kathy d.

    I like Hakan Nesser, too, and just put one more of his books on library reserve. Liza Marklund is good. I like Annika Bengtzon, not because she’s kind or generous or always well-balanced, but because she’s a complicated character, and actually interesting, not a formulaic character. She’s flawed. She’s interesting. What will she do now, we wonder. She’s unpredictable. She has problems at work and at home, even at the childcare center. She doesn’t always use good judgment. All the better for the readers to sit glued to the pages to find out what will happen.


    1. Agreed Kathy. You almost despair at some if the choices Annika makes and she wears her heart on her sleeve to much but this makes her a believable character.

      Hakan Nesser has 2 books out over here this year. I can’t wait.


  13. kathy d.

    I like Nesser’s books, too, have put The Return on library hold. And I read Hour of the Wolf, sad as it was, but good.
    However, I’m like this about Arnaldur Indridason’s books; those I will buy to get them in a timely fashion. I think I look forward to them almost as much as to chocolate cake.


  14. kathy d.

    Annika Bengtzon made a terrible choice on how to deal with some misbehaving children at her son’s daycare center, maybe even legally liable for her behavior. However, parents do all sorts of things to protect their children, even if others cringe at it: the Mama Bear syndrome. But it makes for edge-of-the seat reading.


    1. I’d forgotten all about that incident Kathy. Yes it is outrageous but totally believable for her character. i can imagine some other mothers doing it too….


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