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by Liza Marklund and Neil Smith, trans. read by India Fisher
Brilliance Audio, October 2012
Unabridged pages
ISBN: 1469209217

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Reporter Annika Bengtzon's unlucky assignment is covering the banquet for some of the Nobel Prize winners in Stockholm. But what starts out as an evening of bad food turned cold and red carpet reportage turns deadly when Caroline von Behring, the chair of the Nobel Committee awarding the prize on science and medicine, is assassinated steps away from Annika on the dance floor. Annika's first impulse is to rush out to write about her eye-witness account, but her very proximity makes her the key witness, banned from going public with any information about the killer. All that is known is that a woman slipped into the event in an evening gown and shot von Behring with a gun hidden in her evening bag.

Worse yet, Annika's newspaper is irate that she is useless in pursuing the hottest story of the day. Her editor already dislikes her for an unfavorable story Annika wrote about the publisher, and now her inability to contribute to the headline grabber plus the newspaper's shift toward tabloid and online sensationalism gets Annika suspended, with pay, from her job.

However, Annika has won a rather large reward for finding money in a previous volume of this series, so she spends her time moving into a new suburban house and getting her two small children settled into pre-school. Meanwhile, her husband, Thomas, has been hired by the government to write laws to wiretap anyone even thinking about a crime. Annika is a liberal, and one has to wonder how two such different people got together or why they bother staying together, especially after Thomas' infidelity. Annika's additional time at home and Thomas' rare appearances there only exacerbate their marital situation.

Another long subplot is the story of Alfred Nobel, who had a successful but sad and somewhat tragic life, full of personal loss and unrequited love. His biography ends up having some slight, but all-too-tangential value.

Annika continues to poke around into the von Behring murder on her own time and eventually is taken back onto the paper for reasons that are not at all clear, for both the publisher and editor-in-chief hate her. Perhaps they must, or this novel can't move forward. Though I'm not generally a fan of abridgment, I could have taken a hundred pages out of this bloated tome without hesitation, and a leaner, livelier book would have ensued.

India Fisher is without fault in her performance. She has Annika tagged as a professional but essentially passive woman at the mercy of her husband, friends, employer, and even her neighbors. She individuates most of the characters nicely, and does an especially good job with the voice of the killer, who has a different accent, intonation, and mindset. Fisher brings some much needed chill into this Nordic scene.

This is Marklund's tenth book, so the Annika Bengtzon series clearly has its fans, and someone like me who is not raising children while working may not be the ideal audience. I would have simply liked Annika to get on with the case and use her money to start a new life.

Karla Jay is a legally blind audio book addict, who lives in New York City, where she is Distinguished Professor of English and Women's Studies at Pace University.

Reviewed by Karla Jay, October 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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