Jennifer Palmer has read crime fiction since her teenage years & enjoys reviewing within the many sub-genres that now exist; as a historian who lectures on real life historical mysteries she particularly appreciates historical cime fiction.
This is a crime novel on a too topical theme of Westerners kidnapped
in Africa. The journalist heroine must deal with her husband's kidnap
with some aid from his Swedish government employers.
Initially Annika Bengtzon is doing her job as a journalist in Sweden as a
woman's body is found in the snow behind a nursery school. Annika sees
the boot sticking up from the snow on her way to work. Unknown to Annika
her husband, Thomas Samuelsson, who works for the Department of Justice and has
gone in a delegation to Kenya, has been kidnapped by extremists led by Gregoire
Makusa near the Somali border. His experiences are described in
excruciating detail alternately with her discovery of his kidnapping and her
efforts to deal with this situation. There is some characterisation of
Thomas, mainly as a man who is consistently unfaithful, but the others of his seven
member delegation are not really fully characterised. The emotions of a
mother of two children faced with this situation lacking in solid information
and knowing the sexual peccadilloes of Thomas are well conveyed.
Her obsession with the murdered woman whose boot she saw and the possibility
that she is the victim of a serial killer rather than the victim of her own
abusive partner is a distraction from brutal reality. Annika doesn't
really get the chance to investigate this possibility but she manages to
attract the attention of her boss to it. He is obsessed with weird and
often imagined stories which he sends his staff to investigate.
The horrific experiences of the various members of the kidnapped delegation are
approached in clinical and, in my opinion, excessive detail. I find that
the contrasting stories method of telling what is happening rather
distracting. Annika's effort to handle keeping her children safe and not
saying too much about their father's situation and to deal with the presence in
her home of government official, Jimmy Halenius, who has been appointed as
negotiator to deal with kidnapper's demands is cut with the harrowing
experiences of the delegation in Africa. Eventually the contacts with
Africa cease leaving a very uneasy feeling for the reader. Those
around Annika do seem singularly unhelpful. Only the man from Thomas's office
is unfailingly present and responsive. Her relatives and friends offer
little but selfish obsession with their own responses.
I think we are all far too familiar with the cruelty of treatment of victims
and the harrowing effects on their families back home. I do not need
this clinical exposition - accurate as it may be. Only Annika really
engages our sympathies. The subplot of the murdered woman really doesn't
take off and travails of other journalists add only to the whole atmosphere of
disillusionment. This is a depressing book to read.
There are eight previous books about Annika - occasional references are made to
her experiences in the text and these are not easy to follow if this the first
adventure of Annika you have read.