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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Thrilling Thursday: Review of The Bomber by Liza Marklund

Author: Liza Marklund
Title: The Bomber
Genre: Thriller
Series: Annika Bengtzon (1st written but 4th in series chronology)
Publisher: Transworld
Published: 24 Nov 2011
Source: review copy kindly provided by Transworld as part of their Book Group

Find it at Amazon UK

The blurb says:
Crime reporter Annika Bengtzon is woken by a phonecall in the early hours of a wintry December morning. An explosion has ripped apart the Olympic Stadium. And a victim has been blown to pieces.

As Annika delves into the details of the bombing and the background of the victim, there is a second explosion.

When her police source reveals they are hot on the heels of the bomber, Annika is guaranteed an exclusive with her name on it. But it soon becomes clear that she has uncovered too much, as she finds herself the target of a deranged serial killer...

My verdict: tense Nordic thriller offering lots of insight into Bengtzon's world as a female journalist. Strongly recommended to those who enjoy police procedurals and fancy something a little different.
This was a great read for the festive period, as it takes place during the week leading up to Christmas and reveals Annika's struggles to get Christmas 'right' as a working Mum, as well as the pressures she faces at work and the very real danger she courts as leader of the crime section of the newspaper. There is plenty of atmospheric detail in this novel and Marklund makes it very easy to lose yourself in the world she captures on the page. Marklund was a journalist herself and it is plain that details such as procedures, legal concerns and office behaviour all come from an experienced voice.

There is also a great deal of domestic and personal detail in the story, which I found mostly constructive in establishing character, but I have seen reviews criticising the inclusion of (for example) each cup of coffee drunk. I found it overall an immersive experience and, for me, it helped in ratcheting up the tension, although this is on the whole a drawn-out rather than top-speed pacey kind of thriller.

The narrative is third person past, mostly from Annika's perspective, but there are occasional sections from others' points of view. There are also some short journal-type sections dotted throughout the novel which seem to be some kind of justification of the bomber's motivation and values, offering a very different view of the world.

Annika is a complex character, who seems to be struggling with balancing her demanding career with her family ties. I feel that this aspect of her is particularly well-drawn from a feminist viewpoint without implying that she should have to choose between work and family. She is shown suffering from sexism at work, and worrying about her ability to be a good wife and mother, but she is a realistic creation and does behave as an individual under stress. Again, I know there have been some reviewers who have struggled to accept her as a likeable narrator, but my personal opinion is that her environment is presented clearly enough for us to see her as a product of it. In other words, she may be sometimes moody, but I would suggest she has a right to, under the circumstances.

Overall, I would recommend this as a crime thriller from a slightly different angle, using a reporter as the main character rather than a police detective or private investigator.

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