Retired Chief of the National Crime Police and Swedish Security Service Lars Martin Johansson has just suffered a stroke. He is paying the price for a life of excess – stress, good food and fine wine. With his dangerously high blood pressure, his heart could fail at the slightest excitement.
In the hospital, a chance encounter with a neurologist provides an important piece of information about a 25-year-old murder investigation and alerts Lars Martin Johansson’s irrepressible police instincts. The period for prosecution expired just weeks earlier and that isn’t the only limitation. Lars Martin Johansson is determined to solve the atrocious crime – from his deathbed.
The inimitable style, distinct voice and dark humour of Leif GW Persson, along with the fascinating exploration of a long-cold murder case, serves to make The Dying Detective a true masterpiece of the genre.
The Dying Detective is Lars Martin Johansson. Now retired, he was once Chief of the National Police service and when we meet him, he has had a stroke as a result of years of bad diet and failure to look after himself.
He prides himself on his painstaking approach to police work, so when his consultant talks to him about a cold case – the unsolved murder of a nine year old girl, Yasmin Ermegan, he decided to take a fresh look at the case. So he contacts his old colleague at the station and gets the files and starts to work on her case.
It’s not clear quite why he decides to do this, because we know from the outset that if he tracks down the guilty party, the alleged killer will not be made to stand trial because the statute of limitations on this murder has passed.
But as he begins his methodical work, it soon becomes clear that Johansson will not stop until he finds his murderer.
I hadn’t read any of Persson’s earlier work, and so I was quite surprised to find that he is the creator of the Evert Backstrom series. Indeed, Backstrom features in this book, but really only tangentially – and I get the sense that the Backstrom of the novels and the one in the TV series may be quite different characters. What is similar, though, is the dry sense of humour, sometimes quite black, which occurs through the book.
The Dying Detective does not offer fast paced action or psychological tension, rather it is a study in forensic police work and you can follow the logic and detection process from the start through to the quite undeniable and thoroughly absorbing conclusion. Johansson is a real policeman and you can sense the frustration he has that his body has let him down, though his mind is as agile as ever.
The novel’s conclusion is fitting and when it comes you realise that there was never any doubt that Johansson would ensure that justice was served.
He is a really good character, exceptionally well-drawn and this book made me want to go back and read Persson’s other books.
The Dying Detective is a great read and I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for an intelligent, thought provoking read.
The Dying Detective was published by Transworld Digital on 30 Jun. 2016