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by Jens Lapidus and Astri von Arbin Ahlander, trans.
Macmillan, February 2012
400 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 0230761100

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Jorge is in jail in Stockholm for dealing cocaine and determined to avoid serving the remainder of his sentence. JW is from upcountry, but drawn to the city where he mixes with children of the wealthy and finds coke dealing a way to fund his aspirations. Both become involved with a gang of Serbians, ruthless major players in Stockholm organised crime. There are tensions between Radovan, the leader of the gang, and Mrado, one of his captains. The cocaine business rapidly expands, and Jorge and JW generate cash enough to fund their dreams, but with the police cracking down and the Serbian gang in dispute, a happy outcome for the pair starts to look unlikely.

The key characters in EASY MONEY are not initially very easy to like. Jorge is a petty criminal, incarcerated as a result of Serbian duplicity, apparently a loser with little to recommend him. JW's desperation to be accepted by his rich-kid friends and his obsession with brands are not appealing. It is a measure of the quality of the writing, however, that both Jorge and JW soon come to be seen as rounded and interesting people. Both have what might be termed side-interests: Jorge to accumulate evidence on Radovan's gang, which used him and led to his imprisonment, and JW to discover the fate of his sister, who disappeared. Mrado, a thug devoted to body-building, is rather harder to like, but his understandable resentment of his boss and his love for his daughter make him a multi-dimensional and believable character. As a result it becomes easier to overlook the moral abyss in lifestyle and take a real interest in the outcome for the three. The pace of both action and tension are skillfully increased towards the end of the book leading to a thrilling finish.

Lapidus is a Swede, and his work will no doubt be compared to that of other Scandinavian crime writers currently enjoying popularity. This is a remarkably accomplished debut and certainly can stand the comparison with more well-known authors. The occasional insertions of court transcripts and police memoranda are interesting, presumably informed by Lapidus' work as a criminal defence lawyer. The background, concerns and career trajectory of the characters are generally convincing and again this no doubt reflects his professional experience. Some of the slang used is unfamiliar and distinctly odd; responsibility for this must lie in some degree with the translator, but given that the original words come from small cultural sub-groups the difficulty can be understood and the end result was not too disorientating. EASY MONEY is the first in a planned trilogy and sequels are anticipated with interest.

Chris Roberts is a retired manager of shopping centres in Hong Kong, and now lives in Bristol, primarily reading.

Reviewed by Chris Roberts, February 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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