Review: Leif G W Persson – Linda, As in the Linda Murder

LindaWith an intriguing title, the meaning of which only comes apparent towards the end of the book, Linda, As in the Linda Murder is an unusual read from the outset. Persson has had two previous titles translated into English  but in this latest book, Evert Bäckström, a subsidiary but unforgettable character from Another Time, Another Life is elevated to central protagonist.

Linda is a trainee at the Vaxjo Police Academy who is found raped and murdered in her mother’s flat after returning from a nightclub. Evert Bäckström is sent from Stockholm to head up the investigation, an odd choice given that  Bäckström’s work ethic involves him avoiding as much mental and physical effort as possible. Given Linda’s occupation there are a number of serving and trainee police officers who are potential suspects. As the team sift through the evidence, and try to understand why a wary young woman might have voluntarily let a murderer into the apartment, Bäckström does his best to take credit for the successes and distance himself from any real work.

Linda, As in the Linda Murder is a difficult book to review as its merits all revolve around the most obnoxious of characters, the force of nature that is Evert Bäckström. To try to do him justice in a review is difficult as he is both compelling and abhorrent. Sexist, racist, homophobic, facetious, work-shy, dismissive of his team – these are all the characteristics that should make him a repulsive read. But here’s the rub. He is very very funny. I read some of the scenes with a smirk on my face when really I should have been appalled. It is a compelling mix of Persson’s excellent characterisation and Neil Smith’s spot-on translation that you start laughing at Bäckström’s thoughts and actions and then immediately feel guilty.

We get glimpses of other members of the team who will be familiar from earlier books, including Anna Holt and Lars Martin Johansson, but really it is the passages featuring Bäckström that are the most interesting. There is an almost haphazard logic to some of Bäckström’s actions and his cop’s instincts serve him correctly on a number of occasions.

The murder investigation itself is slow paced, reminding me a little of the books of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö where the painstaking police work (not by Bäckström obviously) in the heat of the summer eventually yields results. It was interesting to read of an investigation set in a part of Sweden I know nothing about. Vaxjo in the Smaland region came across as both picturesque and provincial.

I suspect that this is a novel that people will either like or loathe depending on their ability to stomach the central character. It was an unusual read, it could have done with being a little shorter in my opinion but I’m definitely up for more of Evert Bäckström.

Thanks to Transworld for the copy of my book which has also been reviewed at Eurocrime.

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35 thoughts on “Review: Leif G W Persson – Linda, As in the Linda Murder

  1. Sarah, I’m definitely intrigued by this one, probably because of your take on the main character- what does that say about me? Have you read the earlier books? Is he the same in these or has he evolved to this current state of modern enlightened man? HA HA, I’m joking,

    Heavy sigh – another one on the list!
    Col

    • Hi Colman, I haven’t read the first book and the second is half-finished but I put it down and then lost the thread of the plot. He is exactly the same character in ‘Another Time, Another Life’ it’s just that he takes centre stage in this one.

  2. You’ve made a good case for this one – do you think I need to have read the earlier ones in the series? i’ve got them somewhere I think but I’m curious to read this one as it has “Dagger buzz”.

    • I would go straight to this one Bernadette. I haven’t read the first book but I remember Maxine struggling with it which put me off. I have book 2 and have read well over half of it but it didn’t really come alive for me. YOu can definitely read this one as a standalone.

      • Many thanks Sarah…I’ve even managed to track down a library copy so should be reading it soon-ish. I think I might donate the first book to a worthy cause – it’s been on my shelves for ages and from your comments and Neil’s below it seems I can read other stuff of Persson’s without getting stuck in that particular trilogy 🙂

  3. Sarah – What a great review – thanks. It’s really interesting isn’t it how a character can be completely off-putting and yet compelling at the same time. And wit can go a long way towards making a character sympathetic. Not only has your review made this book very tempting, but also, you’ve given me ‘food tor thought,’ for which thanks.

    • Thanks Margot. Yes Backstrom is one of a kind it’s a credit to the writer that he manages to make the reader appalled and amused at the same time.

  4. You definitely make this book sound interesting. And the author is a very interesting person.

    So many Swedish writers are piling up on my bookshelves. I do have other Scandinavian authors, but why so many Swedish ones? I will put this one on my list, but want to get through some of the others first.

    • I think Sweden does dominate the crime fiction scene over here Tracy although there is plenty of choice from the other Nordic countries. I’m reading a Finnish book at the moment. I’m interested to hear what other people think of this book, especially women as I can’t be the only one who will feel guilty about laughing. As Norman says in his exellent Eurocrime review, we are laughing at the character.

  5. Thanks for the great review, Sarah.
    As so often happens, Leif’s books are being published in a slightly different order in translation to their original Swedish publication. The three books ‘Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End’ (Sw. 2002, tr. 2011), ‘Another Time, Another Life’ (Sw. 2003, tr. 2012), and ‘Free Falling, as if in a Dream’ (Sw. 2007, tr. 2014), together make up a trilogy entitled ‘the Decline of the Welfare State’.
    One of the main characters from that trilogy, Lars Martin Johansson, takes the lead in a later novel, ‘The Dying Detective’ (Sw. 2010, as yet untranslated).
    Evert Bäckström is the focus of a further series of books, of which ‘Linda, As in the Linda Murder’ (Sw. 2005) is the first. ‘He Who Kills the Dragon’ (Sw. 2008), due to be published in English in October 2013, is the second in the series, and will be followed by ‘Pinocchio’s Nose’ (not yet published in Sweden). Hope that helps!

    • Thanks Neil. That’s a really helpful summary and the Swedish publication dates are interesting. I like it when characters pop up in different degrees of importance in a loose series.

      I’m looking forward to ‘He Who Kills the Dragon’ and it sounds like it is going to be as funny as this book. Persson must be having great fun with the character, as I’m sure are you with the translation!

  6. Omigosh: What a dilemma. An intriguing review. What do I do? A Neanderthal cop with humor? How could I deal with this? This review and the one at Crime Scraps are so interesting, but would my annoyance hold sway? I have little tolerance for sexism and racism, especially in protagonists and cops — as in The Brotherhood by Y. Erskine. I just grit my teeth. But would the humor win out? I don’t know.
    If I ever get through my TBR Mount Kilimanjaro, maybe I’ll look at this but every time I think I should read one book, five more appear at the library or in the mail or given me by a friend. It’s like rabbits multiplying.

    • You know what Kathy? I had you in mind when I wrote this review. I’m not sure what you’d make of Backstrom and I’d be interested to see to what extent you could stomach him.

      I know what you mean by the TBR pile.

  7. The library doesn’t have this book, although it has the author’s first two. What did you think of those?
    I’ll wait and see if this one is ordered; if so, I’ll give it a try. The TBR pile is too large now to keep adding to it, except for Vargas, Indridason, Griffiths, Leon, Camilleri.

  8. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ll read it the minute it gets here.
    I’m reading the very intriguing and complicated The Sea Detective. It took a bit of unraveling but now the plot is easier to follow and it’s interesting.

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  17. I loved this book, especially Evert Backstrom. I was shocked but laughed at the same time. it was exciting. Gave it to my cousin he loved it also. In Australia, recently “Death of a Pilgrim” was shown. Evert was a character. Nothing like the book, He was a saint in comparison. Can’t wait for more books by this author.

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