Review: Cell 8; Roslund and Hellström

Ah, Stockholm. Land of the curmudgeonly police detective – 3.5 stars

 Source- borrowed from a friend

Quercus- September 2011

Paperback- 475 pages

Six years ago a man died on an Ohio’s death row whilst awaiting his execution, frustrating those who sought retribution for his crimes.  Now Detective Superintendent Ewert Grens arrests him for an assault charge in Stockholm. With a dead man seemingly brought back to life, this could turn out to be the most explosive case of Grens career to date…

Told from a dual time narrative perspective, this was a pretty compelling novel with some great scene-setting and evocative writing. There was a heightened sense of claustrophobia shaped around death row for example, with the added symbolism of multiple clocks and prison guard watches ticking used to suggest time speeding up towards executions which was chillingly atmospheric. The fictional Marcusville, Ohio, was depicted as a very bleak place, which added to the overall sombre tones of the plot.

This book certainly isn’t without its faults however. It seems that in crime fiction there are a lot of detectives just like Ewert Grens- middle-aged, a bit frumpy and with their personal life in disarray. I mean, he’s an interesting character and all, it just feels like he’s someone I’ve read about before. And I haven’t (I haven’t even read the other Grens books, though I will probably go back and read them after this). Also, the father of the dead girl was portrayed as an erratic nut job, making reader sympathy for his predicament difficult. To me, quite a few of the characters did feel a bit stereotypical; almost ‘pantomime’ in a sense.

I felt that the plot also lacked pace at times and plodded on a bit during the middle section of this book, more so in the aspects of the novel set in the US, though this was more than redeemed by the end of the story- talk about tension to keep you turning the pages! It did feel though, that once Grens and his colleagues had done their thing, they at a stalemate and events were taken entirely out of their control. I enjoyed this novel and though the subject matter is one I admittedly find interesting, I did feel it came across as a bit ‘preachy;’ it is abundantly clear which side of the line the authors’ opinions fall into when taking into account the death penalty and some of the narrative becomes a bit repetitive in those instances. It appears as if they have written this book purely to get their own viewpoint across and becomes a bit of a sermon against the US states that are yet to abolish the death penalty.

Nevertheless, this was still an atmospheric, intriguing read by a crime duo I would certainly welcome reading more of in future. With the influx of Scandi/Swedish/Norwegian-crime quickly flooding into the UK market, Cell 8 is one of the more compelling ones I have tried this year.

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