Carole Tyrrell worked in the theatre for nearly 10 years and was always fascinating by the way death and the supernatural formed many of the greatest and most enduring works. She has read crime fiction for many years and enjoys the broad range of the genre.
Truth can be stranger than fiction and this is very true with the real life crime case that inspired this novel.
The Father is a story of violence, of dysfunctional families and how the sins of the fathers can often be passed onto their children. Set in Sweden, it begins with a disturbing incident of domestic violence in the Duvnjac family. Ivan, the father, is a bully to his wife Britt-Marie and the regular abuse is witnessed by their three sons; Leo, Felix and Vincent. There are flashbacks to their brutal home life throughout the novel giving further insights into their background. The family functions as outsiders in their society, due to their father’s nationality, and from living on the wrong side of the tracks - where violence is seen as the only solution, to any problem.
The action then switches to the present day with the three brothers, like a modern day Three Musketeers, and their wannabe fourth brother, Jasper, carrying out an audacious and well planned robbery of weapons and ammunition from an army facility. Now with arms, they are more than well equipped for the next stage of their plan to get rich quick, preparing for something more audacious.
Leo, the eldest has a masterplan and has organised a series of violent bank robberies. However, the first one, on a security van collecting money from foreign exchange outlets, which was expected to net them over a million kroner doesn’t go completely to plan. One guard manages to activate the security lock and they escape with a fraction of the money. But Leo has the taste for it now and soon they are robbing two banks in the same area simultaneously as well as planting a distraction bomb at the central train station. However, violence can be addictive and it isn’t long before the money ceases to be the main driving force as Leo keeps promising himself that the next robbery will be the last.
Chief Supt John Broncks from Kronoby police station is investigating the first robbery. He’s also from a violent home and has a brother in prison. There is unresolved business between him and Sanna in Forensics, an ex-lover from a relationship that he ended abruptly. But he makes the crucial link between the robbers from CCTV footage. Interestingly he deals with the effects of the brothers’ violence or as Broncks calls it ‘theft of security’. A security guard is so traumatised that he’ll never work again, while a woman with burst eardrums from rifle noise during a bank heist; are some of the results of the violence the brothers bring to bear in their heists. The brothers may not kill, but they can destroy lives by the collateral damage of their actions.
Leo is the master planner and hides their activities behind their building firm. Even his girlfriend, Anneli, a single parent and five years older, doesn’t suspect Leo’a criminal activity. The competitiveness between Leo, his father and the brothers is depicted very well, and the familial link is what eventually becomes their undoing.
Leo’s love of risk taking is shown when he creates a face from bullet holes in a cashier’s glass screen. But there is dissension and tension within the gang especially when Jasper lets off a bomb when he had been explicitly told not to do so - and it’s not long before Leo is on the run with Broncks in dogged pursuit.
The Father is a well written novel which doesn’t flinch or hesitate from depicting violence and the after effects. What makes a child become a criminal, and what makes the child decide law-abiding, is one of the key questions that it poses to the reader. The narrative is dark and violent, with a very visual sense of place. I could see it easily becoming a very successful film or TV series. The relationship between the brothers captured my attention and kept me from wallowing upon some of the darkness and violence contained within the story. It was little surprise considering the ever increasing appeal of Scandi-crime, that this is the first book in a planned series called Made in Sweden. I’m looking forward to the next one already.
If you don’t like too much violence then The Father isn’t for you but if you enjoy fast –paced plotting and plenty of twists and turns then you’re in for a dark ride.
There’s an excellent Q & A session at the back of the book in which one of the authors, Stefan Thunberg discusses the real life case that inspired The Father and how close to home, the perpetrators were. The author’s name, Anton Svensson, is of course a pseudonym, for the investigative journalist Anders Roslund and screenwriter Stefan Thunberg.