Roslund and Hellström's first novel, Three Seconds, hit bestseller lists in their native Sweden and in the US.
Their latest book, Cell 8, opens in the US - in a prison on death row. John Meyer Frey was sentenced to death at 17, for a murder he says he didn't commit.
On the other side of the world in Sweden, John Schwartz assaults another man. He is remanded to jail, but his reaction to being locked up is unsettling. John knows..."He had to get away from there. He couldn't face dying again."
The case is brought to the attention of Swedish Detective Inspector Ewert Grens. But..."He could not possibly know that this single act of violence was linked to a murder, and was the continuation of a process that had started many years ago, far away; it would prove to be the most extraordinary criminal investigation he had ever come across."
I really don't want to give away any more of the plot. Roslund and Hellström have concocted an ingenious, devious plot that makes for a fantastic read. Flashbacks within the current timeline provide the answers from the past. The levels of machinations, manipulations and recriminations are masterful. I kept telling myself 'just one more chapter' and then I'll shut down for the night...I was up very late. But the story also touches on a issue that is controversial in any country - the death penalty. Roslund and Hellström provide social commentary through their characters, both for and against.
I was really hoping that this writing duo would bring back Grens again. He is a complicated character - emotionally wounded, very eccentric and clever. "Detective Inspector Ewert Grens was the sort of person that people moved away from on the pavement, the sort of man who is heard without having to say a word." But there are some chinks in his armour against the world in Cell 8. We learn more about his past and he lets his guard down with a new arrival on his team. I'm not quite sure if I like him or not - my opinion changed throughout the novel. But I am intrigued by him, especially since we have been allowed a personal glimpse.
The supporting cast members are also very well drawn. The hate of the father of Frey's victim is palpable, pulsating on the page. I enjoy the interactions between the members of Grens' team - the addition of young Hermannson has interjected a new dynamic, in many ways.
The run up to the ending of the book had me frantically turning pages and hoping for a certain ending. But I was caught off guard by the direction the authors took. And I love it - not being able to predict what will happen makes the read all the more enjoyable.
What makes this writing duo unique is their backgrounds. Anders Roslund is a award winning journalist who specialized in criminal and social issues and Hellström is an ex-criminal who worked with newly released prisoners stay on the straight and narrow. Their experience shows in their writing - it has a gritty, real tone that will grab you from first page to last.