Source: Review copy and owned copy
Publication: 21 July 2022 from Zaffre
The landline rings as Agneta is waving off her grandchildren. Just one word comes out of the receiver: ‘Geiger’. For decades, Agneta has always known that this moment would come, but she is shaken. She knows what it means.
Retrieving her weapon from its hiding place, she attaches the silencer and creeps up behind her husband before pressing the barrel to his temple. Then she squeezes the trigger and disappears – leaving behind her wallet and keys.
The extraordinary murder is not Sara Nowak’s case. But she was once close to those affected and, defying regulations, she joins the investigation. What Sara doesn’t know is that the mysterious codeword is just the first piece in the puzzle of an intricate and devastating plot fifty years in the making . . .
Gustaf Skördeman’s Geiger begins with a phone ringing. Agneta Broman is waving goodbye to her grandchildren. After answering the phone she hears one word. She picks up a pistol, screws in the silencer, walk up slowly behind her husband, Stellan, and calmly shoots him through his temple. Then she walks out the door taking only an already packed rucksack, leaving everything else behind her.
It’s a terrific start to an interesting story that deals with espionage and the role of Sweden in the Cold War.
Detective Sara Nowak works in the police prostitution unit. She knew Stellan Broman, a once high profile TV presenter, known as ‘Uncle Stellan’ (you can see the parallels now, can’t you…?) She grew up with the Broman children because her mother worked for the Bromans and though this isn’t her jurisdiction, she wants answers.
Sara is a really prickly character with a temper to match. She has a reputation for being too rough on the job and it is only her inside knowledge that allows her anywhere near this investigation. It’s not long before she realises that she knew very little about the real Agneta and Stellan and what she thought she knew was a web of lies.
Gustaf Skördeman’s mysterious code word is the trigger for a chain of events that lead to a terrifying plot that involves a shady character named Abu Rasil – a sought after terrorist operating in Europe during the Cold War.
Geiger is a spy story but it also reveals some other disturbing elements and from the beginning the tension in this international spy story is high. This is Sara’s story and she will have to uncover the secrets of her own past as well as Agneta’s if she is ever to understand how to cope with the future.
Geiger has a fast moving plot, weaving between the police investigation and Agneta’s mission. The story is seen from two perspectives, and we see the commonplace development of dual identities and undercover secrets. Skördeman illuminates the Cold War and the relationships between Sweden, East Germany and Russia provide the backdrop to Agneta’s movements.
As Sara investigates it becomes clear that Stellan was more than the genial uncle that his adoring public so venerated. Indeed, almost no-one is who they purport to be and certainly none of them can be trusted in this murky story of death, corruption, terrorism and darkness.
The pacing is good in this dark and surprising story, though there is a lot of information to get through in the sections dealing with the Cold War. The characters are very well drawn, Stella in particular, and we understand her a lot better by the time we get to the twisty, compelling but somewhat contrived conclusion.
Verdict: Well worth reading, I enjoyed this explosive, complex thriller which made, at times, for a very uncomfortable read.
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Gustaf Skördeman was born in 1965 in Sweden and is a screenwriter, director and producer. Geiger, his thriller debut, is published in 24 countries, and film rights have been optioned by Monumental Pictures.