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THE SWIMMER
by Joakim Zander and Elizabeth Clark Wessel, trans.
Harper, February 2015
421 pages
$27.99
ISBN: 0062337246


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In this exceptionally well written (and well translated) debut thriller, Joakim Zander takes readers around the world to tell his story of the opportunities missed by a Swedish daughter and her American father. It all begins in Damascus, where Klara's mother is killed by a car bomb while her father is serving a field agent for the CIA.

Cut to the present moment and a former college friend and lover of Klara's has received a cryptic message from an old army buddy. Mahmoud (or Moody to Kara) is pursuing his PhD in Sweden and is invited to speak at the EU in Brussels when he receives the strange email. He decides to meet his friend without fully understanding what is at stake. From there, everything changes, and the plot circles back to flashbacks of Klara's father in the killing fields of Afghanistan and Iraq, to Klara's childhood in the remote islands of the Baltic Sea, to Moody's immigrant struggles in the housing projects of Stockholm but also to modern life in Washington DC, where Klara's father now works, as well as to the European Parliament in Brussels, where Klara serves as an aide to a Swedish parliamentarian.

There seem to be many disparate stories, yet the author skillfully manages to interweave them all. Adding to the storyline is the backdrop of "enhanced interrogation" techniques employed by rogue US military contractors working for the CIA; it is this ugly history that is the secret now endangering so many people's lives, including those of Klara and her father.

It's a heart-pounding, action-packed ride that will leave readers breathless to the end. Freeing herself from the mire of the situation will not be easy for Klara or those who surround her, but in the end, she proves herself to be a worthy warrior, her father's daughter.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, March 2015

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