THE NIGHTMARE

Written by Lars Kepler

Review written by Gwen Moffat

Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.


THE NIGHTMARE
Blue Door
RRP: £14.99
Released: 13th September 2012
Hbk

A yacht is drifting off the Swedish coast with a drowned woman aboard, but her clothes are dry. At the same time an arms exporter is discovered hanged in his apartment but too high for him to have reached the noose unaided.

 

These suspicious deaths are handled by Detective Inspector Joona Linna, a man of strength but curiously colourless. He is shortly made aware that there were two other people aboard the yacht: the dead woman's sister and the partner of one of them, but which one? Confusing for him, but the reader is constantly abreast of the plot, informed by running insertions concerning the actions, plans and memories of other characters, notably the missing couple who are being hunted through the offshore islands by a professional hit man.

 

This is a moral tract: Good versus Evil, the latter epitomized by traders in illegal arms exports (according to Kepler Sweden, the USA and the UK are the largest exporters of weapons: legally, so that's all right). Against them are the peace activists. Vast fortunes are at stake; the body count is epic and bloody, described in excruciating detail from genocide in Dafur to the grand shoot-out on the arch villain's mega-yacht. At this point the translator, author, or all (Kepler is a collaboration) are carried away by the material and what is intended as a sensational climax comes over ludicrous in breathless schoolboy text. It's a long book, not improved by the belated introduction of an insomniac who can sleep only in the arms of an unstable 14-year-old girl. The titillation doesn't work.

 

With the fat trimmed and in the hands of clever screen writers it should make a popular film.

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