Arne Dahl’s The Blinded Man was a book I managed to read before its UK publication via a US copy entitled Mysterioso. It confirmed for me that the accompanying hype was justified as it managed to give us a slightly different style of Scandinavian crime thriller with a strong cast of central characters. We’ve had to wait a while for the next book in series, which has been preceded by its dramatisation on BBC4. However, Bad Blood proved to be an excellent read and not marred by my familiarity with the story.
Detective Paul Hjelm and his team at the special unit within the Swedish National Criminal Police receive an urgent call from the FBI to say that a notorious serial killer has boarded a plane to Stockholm after killing a Swedish national. The ‘Kentucky Killer’ murders his victims by squeezing shut their vocal cords with a torturous implement. When the killer escapes detection at the airport, the team have to try to unravel why the American killer has travelled to Sweden and who his next victims are likely to be.
Dahl’s writing is always a pleasure to read, detailing in equal measure a complex police investigation along with the relationships that form within a tightly-knit unit. The characters that we got to know in The Blinded Man are back but most of the relationships have subtly shifted: Paul Hjelm is back with his wife, his colleague and ex-lover Kerstin Holm is mourning the death of her partner, and former Mr Sweden, Gunnar Nyberg, is trying to atone for past sins. The book’s title is one that has been used by other writers but it sums up the central theme of the novel – how family relationships can often destroy lives.
Dahl has previously stated that he wrote ten books in his Intercrime series partly as an homage to Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck series. I could see the influence of the crime writing duo’s series on this book: the trip that Hjelm and Holm take to New York had echoes of Roseanna in it and the tone of the novel had the restrained feel I often associate with Swedish crime fiction, with the exception of the conclusion. The villain, when caught, is a larger than life figure which, while befitting the monstrosity of the crimes, gave the ending a Hannibal Lecter feel.
Overall Bad Blood, written in 1998, is a worthy follow-up to The Blinded Man and there is plenty of mileage left in the series. I just hope the remainder of the books are translated as soon as possible.