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Three Seconds [Paperback]

Anders Roslund , B÷rge Hellstr÷m
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 1 2011
The New York Times bestseller…now in paper!
 
Dark, suspenseful, and more riveting than any thriller at the local cineplex, Three Seconds is the latest novel from bestselling Swedish duo Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström--the new masters of Scandinavian crime.

Piet Hoffman, a top-secret operative for the Swedish police, faces his most dangerous assignment yet: after years spent infiltrating the Polish mafia, he's become a key player in their attempt to take over amphetamine distribution inside Sweden's prisons. To stop them from succeeding, he will have to go undercover, posing as a prisoner inside the country's most notorious jail.

But when a botched drug deal involving Hoffman results in the death of another cop, the murder investigation is assigned to the brilliant but haunted Detective Inspector Ewert Grens--a man who never gives up until he's cracked the case. Grens's determination to find the killer not only threatens to expose Hoffman's true identity, it may reveal even bigger crimes at the heart of the Swedish justice system. And there are players who will do anything to stop Grens from discovering the truth.

Winner of the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers' 2009 award for Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year and a New York Times bestseller in the United States, Three Seconds captures a nefarious world of betrayal and violence, where a wise man trusts no one and even the most valuable agent can be “burned.”

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Review

“Gritty and fast-paced.” -- TODAY show
 
"Americans are finally catching on to what thriller fans around the world already know — that the Swedish team of Roslund & Hellstrom is writing explosive crime novels as good, if not better, than those of Stieg Larsson …. Gun play, explosions, betrayals and the ingenious ways drugs and weapons are smuggled into prisons give this novel, Roslund & Hellström's fifth, an eau de testosterone level that's through the roof." –USA Today

“[A] sprawling and often gripping thriller…. The gritty details of drug dealing, of prison life and of the relations between cops and informants are all rendered with convincing authority.”--Wall Street Journal
“Thrill-a-minute cat and mouse game…a grimly amoral tale.” --Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
 
“Twisty plot makes for propulsive reading.” --Entertainment Weekly
 
“A complex and surprising novel… A riveting story that serious readers will find worthwhile and memorable. Three Seconds hits its target. It is a tour de force.” --New York Journal of Books
 
“It's like Traffic on the Swedish-Polish border, but everything from the weather to the criminals' hearts is a little colder.” --People magazine
 
“The action quickly draws you in and continues to grip you to the final chapters of the novel. The authors have something to say, and Three Seconds proves to be an excellent way of doing it.” --
Associated Press
 
“These guys are their own kind of writers and if you love crime fiction you owe it to yourself to check out this book. Mobsters, drug dealers, corruption and loads of action. This is pure straight up Crime Fiction, no chaser, no apologies.” ––Crimespree
 
"Piet Hoffman is a devoted husband and the father of two young sons. He’s also an ex-con who has been working undercover for the Stockholm police for nine years. Code named “Paula,” Piet has risen through the ranks of the Polish mafia and is chosen to lead the Poles’ effort to control the supply of amphetamines in Sweden’s prisons. To do that, Paula must get himself arrested and sent to a maximum security prison, wipe out the existing supplier, and keep himself alive until he has all the information needed for the police to move on the gang. Roslund, a former journalist, and Hellstrom, a former criminal, have concocted a brilliant thriller that posits a nearly literal invasion of Sweden by East European criminals allied with former state security agents. Combine that with a morally compromised police and Ministry of Justice effort to combat the invasion, and you have a genuine crisis. Piet’s growing fear of discovery or betrayal and his angst at his beloved wife’s ignorance of his work ratchet up the story’s tension page by page and make the novel extremely difficult to put down. Named the Swedish Crime Novel of the Year in 2009, Three Seconds puts Roslund and Hellstrom in the company of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson. Crime fiction rarely gets as good as this." -- Booklist [*Starred Review*]

About the Author

 Award-winning journalist Anders Roslund and ex-criminal Börge Hellström are Sweden's most acclaimed fiction duo. Their unique ability to combine inside knowledge of the brutal reality of criminal life with searing social criticism in complex, intelligent plots has put them at the forefront of modern Scandinavian crime writing. In 2009, Three Seconds was awarded the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers' Award for Swedish Crime Novel of the Year, previously won by both Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell, and it was a top 10 best seller in Sweden for eight months.

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finished all the Stieg Larssons? Feb. 2 2011
By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Scandanavian authors have just exploded on North American reading lists following the runaway success of Stieg Larsson's books.

Finished that series and looking for another? You've got to try Three Seconds by Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström from Sweden. This pair are Sweden's number one crime writers. Here's the interesting thing - Roslund is an award winning journalist and Hellström is a an ex con. The combination of their talents and viewpoints have made their books a hit. Three Seconds was the Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year in 2009.

Piet Hoffman is a police informant, deep undercover, having infiltrated the Polish mafia. One last mission and the cops will have what they want and Piet can 'retire' into anonymity with his family. The job - go into the worst prison in Sweden and take control of the drug trade. With assurances that they'll try to get him out if things go bad, Piet agrees. But once he's in - he's on his own...

DI Ewert Grens is unaware of Piet Hoffman until his name comes up in a murder case. As Grens follows the threads of his investigation, it leads to more than just a simple murder. Ewert Grens is a character I want to read more of. He is an emotionally wounded man and very eccentric, but also terribly clever. Past cases are alluded to, but this never detracted from this book as a stand alone.

I couldn't put this one down. It's a gritty, gripping read that delves into the shadowy underworld. An intense, intrically plotted story that kept me turning pages. The ending was very clever - loved it.

Three Seconds is now on the New York Times bestseller list.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Is Justice? Feb. 22 2011
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
"Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom;
I am understanding, I have strength.
By me kings reign,
And rulers decree justice.
By me princes rule, and nobles,
All the judges of the earth." -- Proverbs 8:14-16 (NKJV)

I found Three Seconds to be one of the best suspense stories I've read in many years. If you like suspense stories, I recommend this one.

Three Seconds delivers a most unusual anti-hero, Piet Hoffman, a criminal turned police informer who is rapidly climbing the ranks of organized crime in Sweden. You'll find yourself cheering him on, if for no other reason than appreciation for an underdog dealing with an impossible situation.

Three Seconds is a suspense novel about crime. Some parts of this book are so intense that I had to put the book down until I felt calmer. The book's strong emotions are brilliantly portrayed, and you'll feel them.

It's not all gut-wrenching, and parts may feel almost dull by comparison to the most vivid sections. Stick with the book and I think you'll feel like you've been on the world's scariest "amusement" ride before you're done.

There's also a lot of food for thought here, starting with the intricate and fascinating plot . . . and ending with questions you'll ask yourself about what justice truly is.

Bravo!
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If only it went a bit faster Feb. 16 2011
Format:Hardcover
The story is well-written. Lots of details and a believable plot. Trouble is that it is VERY slow to get going. There are nearly 100 pages of setting up the story/characters which dragged on to the point where I wanted to skip ahead to when things actually started happening.

It's not a North American setting (duh) so most of the place names/geography were not familiar so I had no idea if smuggling from Poland to Sweden is a long distance, or just a quick bus trip. The names are also foreign, which was confusing until the characters are more developed (ie page 100+).

It is clear that the book is part of a series... there are "hints" around the main detective having a history that affects his current work/life but there are no details on this past so it's a bit confusing... we know he's troubled and that bad things happened to make him so, but we have no idea what or when.

Is it interesting enough to go back and read the earlier books in the series? Perhaps, if you don't mind non-North American politics/criminal activities and/or enjoy mafia criminal activity stories. Personally I like a bit more action and fewer characters to figure out.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  76 reviews
102 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing, finely tuned suspense Jan. 4 2011
By R. Larkin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Piet Hoffman, Swedish undercover police informer, has climbed very high in the ranks of the Polish Mafia when he haplessly witnesses a murder during a drug deal gone terribly wrong. While Inspector Ewert Grens investigates the murder, Hoffman's Mafia masters want him in prison to take over drug operations there. A secret arm of the law agrees, and offers him and his family protection and new identities for breaking the drug operations of the Mafia in the Swedish prison system. But they reckoned without the indefatigable Grens, intent on solving his case all unaware of the secret agenda.

A stunningly well-written police procedural meets thriller meets psychological suspense novel; this book succeeds in all three genres. At times the suspense was so well drawn, and had so drawn me in, that I had to put the book aside for awhile to regain my composure. The details of the drug trade, particularly the description of the 'mules' in the early chapters, were disgusting to read but nonetheless set the story up perfectly.

This gritty, breathtaking story of colliding cases featuring corrupt officials, a barely sane investigator, and a nimble and likable ex-con has lingered in my mind.
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast-paced and compelling thriller Jan. 4 2011
By F. Harrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If you like the tale of political corruption of the American counterpart Gods of Ruin or the dark mysteries of Steig Larsson, you will enjoy this action-packed thriller. It's the second in the series, but it is easily a stand alone. And those wacky Swedes do it again! For such a small country, Sweden is like 1920s Chicago when it comes to crime, at least as far as these books make it seem. The protagonist, Grens is put on a murder case early, which leads nowhere, but eventually picks up in conjunction with a conspiracy of Polish drug cartels and former Swedish government officials focused in the nation's prisons.

It's a very compelling book, but that could be because of the unique writing style of almost note-like sentences, followed by full descriptive paragraphs. In that sense, Three Seconds is almost a work of art on two levels--the story and the actual book itself.

If you enjoy a complex take of intrigue and fascinating characters, or if you ran out of Larsson books, you will dig this.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intense & suspenseful thriller. Jan. 4 2011
By Jessica Martinez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I received an ARC of "Three Seconds" for B&N's First Look book club.

Wow. What an intense book!

Three Seconds tells the story of the role of criminal informants in Sweden in infiltrating the criminal underworld. Piet Hoffman is an ex-criminal and an informant for the Swedish police, attempting to help them infiltrate the drug trade of the Polish mafia. We open at the scene of a botched drug buy that results in a murder, which veteran police investigator Ewert Grens is assigned to investigate. But because the use of informants is a well-kept secret, Grens finds details that don't quite add up and begins to suspect there may be more than meets the eye... As Grens gets closer to the truth, Piet is more and more in danger as he attempts to infiltrate and secure the drug trade in the Swedish prisons. For Piet, success means being able to go back to his family and start a new life with them; failure means certain death.

It took me a little while to really get into Three Seconds; the book is split into five sections, and the first two went by a little slowly. It took me several days to read the first 200 pages or so, but I ended up reading the last 250 pages in about a day! Once the action picked up in Part Three, there was no way to put the book down; it was relentless and so suspenseful that I had trouble setting it down for even a few minutes at a time. The first two parts are heavy on the backstory and character development, but I don't think that it was detrimental in any way (other than making for a slower read at first) because it made the characters more interesting and compelling in the later parts, and only added to the intensity of the action. By the end, I found myself cheering for Piet and crossing my fingers that he would make it out alive.

One of the things I found especially interesting in Three Seconds was the depth of description of both the police and criminal worlds. Roslund was a news reporter who specialized in criminal issues and Hellström was an ex-criminal, so they know a LOT about the issues they were writing about and the depth of their knowledge shows. I would recommend Three Seconds for fans of Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy or anyone else who just wants a really good crime novel. I actually found myself enjoying this book even more than Larsson's books. I'm definitely going to seek out the other two of Roslund & Hellström's books that have been translated into English.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Long Slog to Get to the Better Part Jan. 23 2011
By R. Schwed - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Gosh, I don't think this is a 5 star book. And if you're looking for something like the Stieg Larsson titles (all of which I devoured and loved), this surely isn't it. I don't know whether it's the translation or the original writing, but it is very much overwritten and melodramatic -- repeated stating of the obvious -- "he could die" -- "if he didn't do it, he would be dead"-- etc. The Scandinavian names and locations also get in the way more than they did with Larsson's efforts. Moreover, the main character, Ewert, is not particularly likable, and a lot of the other characterizations in the book (e.g., the Swedish police higher ups) are either perfunctory or clichéd.

The book is divided into 5 parts, and I was ready to abandon ship during the first two parts (which represent, according to my Kindle, about 40%). I will admit that the third part, and a good chunk of the fourth (maybe 40-80%) were compelling and finally had me turning the pages. But then the plot became predictable again and bogged down in the writing, although, overall, at least I wasn't struggling like I was through the beginning. So, thankful for small favors, at least.

Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't recommend this title. Not a good reward to time spent ratio. If you like thrillers, there are a lot of better ones out there -- and I will list some of my favorites so you can get a sense of whether or not you might share my judgment on this one and/or discover some new ones if you haven't tried them all: Stieg Larsson, Stephen Hunter, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Greg Iles, Vince Flynn, Barry Eisler (only his Rain novels), David Stone, Martin Cruz Smith, Gregg Hurwitz, Harlan Coben, Alex Berensen, Mark Greany, Nelson DeMille, Chuck Logan (his Phil Broker novels), Richard North Patterson, Thomas Perry, Dan Brown. For a thinking person's thriller, I think my absolute favorite these days is anything by Michael Gruber (start with The Good Son). Noah Boyd's debut effort (The Bricklayer)is excellent too. If you want a foreign flavor, try anything by Simon Kernick (not hefty weight, but total page turners).

By the way, I got the Kindle version of this while traveling in London. For some reason, it doesn't seem to be available, at least yet, in Amazon's US store (although it is available for the Nook -- go figure)
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tour De Force Crime Thriller Jan. 4 2011
By Diana Keeler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a dark, compelling, high octane read with vivid, intriguing characters that will linger in your mind long after you close the book.

A murder in Stockholm appears to be the bloody result of a drug deal gone wrong. Ex con turned undercover operative Piet Hoffmann--a man who wants a normal life with his wife and sons--is being used by the government and police to infiltrate the Polish mafia's drug operation. In order to complete his assignment Hoffmann must go inside a maximum security prison, but when finds himself linked to the killing of another undercover agent posing as a dealer, the police and the mafia want him dead. As the clock ticks the tension ratchets up until the explosive conclusion.

If you like morally complex thrillers and, especially, if you like Stieg Larsson, you'll love Three Seconds.
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