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Red Wolf: A Novel by Liza Marklund
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Really enjoyed it. Read it really fast. Good page turner. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jun 17, 2014 |
Newspaper journalist Annika Bengtzon has turned down a senior editor’s job so that she can continue investigative journalism. Having prepared a series of articles on terrorism she plans another on the anniversary of an attack during which a man died which happened in 1969 at an air force base in the far north of the country. No one has ever been convicted over the attack but local journalist Benny Ekland seems to have some new information so Annika flies to Luleå to meet with him. When she arrives she discovers he has died and she learns from speaking to an eye witness the police have not found that his death was the result of a deliberate hit and run. Through her connections at the highest levels of the police she also learns that their suspect for the ’69 attack was a local left-wing activist known as Ragnwald who, they believe, went on to become a ‘terrorist for hire’ in Spain and France. When Ekland is killed and other deaths follow everyone wonders if Ragnwald has returned and if so, why? It is Annika who joins the dots in this fast-paced story.

I have to admit that this book isn’t really the best work of crime fiction you’ll read, in that the crime does not always take centre stage. Marklund is at least equally, if not more, concerned with using the crime and its investigation as a backdrop for the exploration of a range of social and political issues. Fortunately for me I found these utterly fascinating and so did not mind terribly that the crime was dealt with in a more perfunctory way than I might normally look for.

One of Marklund’s ongoing themes, modern journalism and what’s happening to it, is explored in great depth here. As a news junkie who feels like her drug of choice has been almost eradicated these days I found myself nodding along with Annika when she lamented to her boss

Anne Nicole Smith on the front page three days in a row last week…A boy who masturbated on a reality show on Saturday. The Crown Princess kissing her boyfriend on Sunday…Can’t you see what you’ve done to this paper?”

And when he responds that there is investigative work still going on she continues

That doesn’t stop me from regretting the way journalism is going. Along with the other tabloids we’re writing about reality television as if it was the most important thing going on right now. Now that can’t be right, can it?

If it hurts me as a reader to see the drivel that a significant percentage of news media content has turned into, I can only imagine how deeply it must affect a journalist like Annika (and Marklund who is herself a journalist).

The other aspect of this novel that had me gripped was its insight into Swedish political history, a subject about which I am woefully ignorant (now maybe slightly less so). I had always known vaguely that Sweden’s political environment was a more left-leaning one than I am familiar with, but I had no idea just how this had played out over time. The use of an attack in the 60′s gives Marklund the chance to explore her country’s political environment at that time, something done deftly via the character of Berit who is Annika’s mentor at the newspaper. She has been involved with left-wing politics for much of her life so able to provide interesting background. Australia’s political scene is largely tame and centrist so I am always intrigued by societies that have a different kind of political history.

As always Annika Bengtzon is a troubled character and, as always, I spent a good portion of the book not liking her actions. I have never found her dull or unbelievable though, even when I’ve been disappointed in her behaviour. She is still dealing with the mental fallout from the events in the previous book in the series* which manifests itself in a variety of ways including anxiety attacks and the voices of kind angels in her head. Now there are rumblings from her boss that she may not be able to continue working on the kinds of stories she wants to do. On top of that she encounters yet more marital problems and it was her handling of this aspect of her life that I found objectionable, though I repeat it was entirely credible. The author’s note at the end of the copy of the book I read made particular mention of this in that Marklund was widely exploring the theme of people abusing their power and she wondered if Annika would also do so in the right circumstances. Would we all?

For me the best crime fiction does what Marklund has done here: combine a compelling plot with insight into some aspect of politics, history or society in general. While finding out ‘whodunnit’ is interesting, it is never as satisfying as finding out why. When this is played out against a backdrop of general social commentary it is the most satisfying of all.

My rating 4.5 stars ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
When investigating a murder, a reporter discovers a greater conspiracy.

Very readable, though Marklund is definitely not my favourite Swedish crime author. It takes some time before the story really starts to unfold, and I personally don't like Marklund's characters very much, especially the main character, Annika Bengtzon, I find very annoying, which takes away from enjoying the book. ( )
  Britt84 | Nov 11, 2012 |
The fifth book in the Annika Bengtzon series, I've absolutely no idea whether or not the entire series has been translated in order or not. I've sort of lost the plot with this series, probably because the first book - THE BOMBER - didn't appeal a lot. The last I read, PRIME TIME, was better, but a lot of the problem is that Annika, as the main focus, is a character I find it very hard to either warm to, or increasingly raise much interest in.

The plot of RED WOLF, that idea of the past having a direct impact on the present, is something I'm noticing a lot these days. The interweaving of the 1969 destruction of a plane on a Swedish air base, home-grown Communist sleeper cells and the impacts of the Cold War on Sweden then and now was carefully drawn out, given immediacy and current day relevance by the death of another journalist, Benny Ekland. It's an interesting idea, in this book executed reasonably well, although it does take a little while to get going. Which wasn't exactly helpful, as there's also a lot going on in Annika's personal life, which, if like me, you're having trouble with Annika, doesn't help with getting into this book.

This is probably my biggest cause of confusion with this series. I can't work out why Annika grates quite as much as she does. Somehow she comes across to me as less stoic and determined and more whingy and inclined to play the martyr. Less put upon and more the cause of most of her problems.

There's also another pattern I've noticed a bit. Whilst having a journalist as an investigator of crimes, outside the law, isn't that big a stretch of the imagination, there is sometimes a tendency to just make out that the official police investigators have "missed" vital clues. Again, not a big stretch of the imagination to think that maybe it could happen... but every time a journalist is involved?

Blast, I think I'm in nitpicking territory. Which isn't a good thing. The biggest problem I've now got is that I'm not keen on the idea of just abandoning a series based on problems with one or two books - working on the principle that a book should stand alone, as well as be part of the series. 3 books out of 5 translated that have left me feeling a bit disappointed might mean that I have to shuffle the other couple down the priority pile a bit.

http://www.austcrimefiction.org/review/red-wolf-liza-marklund ( )
  austcrimefiction | Sep 24, 2012 |
Another capable Swedish woman, albeit one more conventional than in the Millennium Trilogy. This book should be require reading for Journalism 101 as it details the intuition, research, and leg work a good investigative reporter puts in to get a story. And our heroine has a dandy: the nexus of terrorism and a serial killer that extends up to the ministerial level of the government. In the background, via her best friend, is an American multinational seeking to create a dominant new digital network. Meanwhile, the journalist's husband--she's also a great mother of two and wife--is having an affair and her panic attacks have returned. As a description of first-world hyper-competitive middle-class life and stress, the book succeeds. But its staccato rhythm is annoying (a bad translation?), and her nemesis seems a bit too Bondish to be believed. Other aspects seem unreal as well: for example, her immediate access to the Justice Minister, and her lack of psychological insight about herself. Yet, the book is entertaining and compelling to a degree. ( )
  neddludd | Dec 25, 2011 |
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Stockholm journalist Annika Bengtzon turns independent reporter, mostly pursuing terrorism stories. While she's investigating in the northern town of Luleå̊, a fellow journalist and source dies in a hit-and-run accident, which turns out to be the first in a series of murders. Annika traces these murders to a deadly act of sabotage on a Swedish military base in 1969, and begins to suspect that the man behind the present-day slayings and the army attack--known only by his code name of "Ragnwald"--has returned to kill again.… (more)

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