The recent trend for quirky Scandinavian fiction was started, in 2012, by Jonas Jonasson (quirky name, quirky guy…) with his first novel The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. There have been a number of novels with similarly oddball titles, some by Jonasson, some not and they have been fascinating us ever since. To be fair it seems that most of them are genuinely Nordic in some way – which maybe proves that living with midnight sun (or worse, polar nights) makes authors think slightly at right angles to what we see as reality in more temperate zones. Or maybe it’s just the pickled herrings – more research is probably needed…
Jonasson’s latest features Hitman Anders (who is a fairly rubbish killer since it seems that he only ever kills in a fit of temper and has spent ever-increasing chunks of his life in prison as a consequence). We first meet him as a mostly reformed character who has improved his chances of freedom by giving up drugs and strong liquor. When he meets up with a female priest (who is an atheist) and a hotel receptionist with a totally forgettable name, however, things start to get complicated. The receptionist and priest make Anders look like the good guy, especially when he gets religion, and they become the number one enemy of the Swedish underworld. At this point rather than give away any plot spoilers I will just say that the words ‘madcap’ and ‘satisfyingly convoluted’ spring to mind.
This is a light read but it can lead you to think about your own attitudes to crime, religion, love and revenge (although this isn’t compulsory). The relationship between the three main characters is amusing but also, at times, quite touching – by the end, even though you know they are never really going to be counted among the ‘good guys’, you are definitely rooting for them.