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Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End by Leif GW Persson

Originally posted on Fri, Oct 08 2010 at ROPL.org.

In February 1986, Sweden’s Prime Minister, Olof Palme, was assassinated. Even now, 24 years later, the crime remains unsolved. Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End gives us a fictional account of the months leading up to the assassination. Written by a leading Swedish criminologist, Leif GW Persson, the novel is an engrossing story, involving both Sweden’s regular police as well as the secret police.

Though billed as a novel similar to those of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, it shares little in common with these authors. Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End is less of a character study than a political thriller. There are few characters whose lives we explore and want to spend time with, as the readers do in Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. There’s no tough, multi-layered detective like Mankell’s Kurt Wallander. Instead, Persson invites us into the world of Swedish politics, crime and the police through a multitude characters – many of whom are extremely unlikeable.

We spend time with the chief of police, the head of the secret police, a special adviser to the Prime Minster, several policemen and women, as well as a retired professor. Through these characters, and others, we’re slowly drawn into a world of racism, hatred, and the occasional desire to seek out the truth – and, later, what might happen.

The novel starts with the apparent suicide of a visiting American journalist and slowly unfolds into a nightmare for both the regular Swedish police and the secret police. While at first confusing, the switching narratives gives us a broad understanding of what’s going on – and we know what’s happening long before some of the characters do.

Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End is an intense, thrilling and ultimately satisfying (though slightly creepy) novel. You need not have read any other Scandinavian novels in order to enjoy Persson’s book. It is an nontraditional novel about a very nontraditional piece of Sweden’s history – one that still remains unsolved to this day.

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