I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher.
Alexander’s Söderberg’s The Andalucian Friend is an incredible read. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an author keep as many balls up in the air as Söderberg does here. This book is far from an ordinary thriller. In a regular thriller, there’s a Party A and a Party B. One party does something to piss the other off, then the second party chases the first, etc. etc. In The Andalucian Friend there’s a Party A, a Party B, a Party C, and on and on until we get half way through the alphabet. Towards the end, I wanted to take a small break just to graph everything out to keep everyone straight.
The book opens with a series of short chapters introducing a fair amount of the cast. Two of the protagonists meet each other in a hospital in Stockholm. Sophie Brinkmann is a nurse, a widow with a teenaged son. Hector Guzman is a shady businessman with a seriously broken leg. (He was run down in a car by on of the many antagonists.) They become friends. Shortly thereafter, the police make contact with Sophie, hoping to use her as an informant to gather evidence about Guzman. Yet another protagonist, Jens, an arms dealer, pisses off a bunch of coked up Russians who chase him back to Stockholm. Jens and Sophie are old friends, and the business with Hector and his enemies brings them back together.
Not only are half the criminals in Europe (it seems) after Hector, Sophie, and Jens, but the police aren’t much help. Gunilla Strandberg runs a small unit of police that have carte blanche for gathering evidence and capturing criminals. Gunilla uses that carte blanche for everything its worth and in short order bugs Sophie’s house, puts her under surveillance, and tries to get leverage over her by framing her son. If it wasn’t clear by now that Gunilla isn’t on the up and up, it gets really clear when hints about her past actions and mistakes come to light.
There are four parts in this book, and it seems like new enemies and complications crop up in every one of them. Like I said, I wanted to chart it all out to keep it straight. It seems complicated just writing out this introduction to the book, but Söderberg makes it all work. I’m not sure how he does it, but he does. Every chapter reveals new details about the characters, keeping them from just being stock characters. The plot twists and turns with each chapter, too, so you can’t predict what’s going to happen next.
When I looked this book up on GoodReads* to grab the picture, there’s a note that this is the first book in the “Sophie Brinkmann Trilogy.” I’m very curious to see what happens in the next volumes, because even this first entry shows Sophie transitioning from an ordinary nurse into something much less cut and dried. I’m not sure, at this early stage, if we’re talking about a Breaking Bad sort of transformation but Sophie has already showed her mettle several times in The Andalucian Friend.
* I don’t care that Amazon bought them last week. And the people who deleted their accounts are overreacting.