I was pleased to be sent a copy of Marked for Life by Emelie Schepp for review. I love a good crime fiction book and Nordic crime is really big at the moment so I was intrigued to see how this one stood up.
This is the story of a series of strange deaths in a coastal town in Sweden. First the head of the migration board is shot in his home with no obvious suspect, then a young boy is found shot dead on the deserted shoreline, holding the gun which seems to have killed the first victim. It’s down to the police, and public prosecutor Jana Berzelius to figure out what’s going on, and to piece together not only these deaths but also strange aspects that seem to link to her own life.
At first I found it hard to get into this book; I had no idea how to pronounce most of the names and places and that was a little off-putting. Also there are a few details of Swedish law that don’t seem to be the same as English which made it a little confusing in places.
That said, once I was about two chapters in I could not put this book down. It was utterly brilliant. Although the story is told from several different perspectives, it is the story of Jana Berzelius we follow most closely as she tries to remember things that happened in her past which have long since been forgotten. There are several points where one thinks, that’s it; she’s done for now and there’s no going back. Interestingly though, this is only the first Jana Berzelius book; there is an excerpt from the second at the back of the book!
I like that as well as Berzelius we learn about the private lives of the key members of the police team; their home lives are drawn into it without seeming out of place, and this makes them much more three-dimensional characters rather than just extras in a book about Berzelius. I would imagine they will appear in future books as well.
What I loved about this book was that there were a few red herrings along the way. There was lots of detail that wasn’t necessarily relevant to the overall storyline so part of reading it was trying to figure out what was relevant and what was just an interesting aside. I love that there’s a female lead, and she’s a proper, kick-arse lead too. She kicks and punches and uses a gun without breaking a sweat, and doesn’t have a love interest either; how refreshing!
The book is fantastically well written, and I can completely understand how Schepp came to be crowned Sweden’s Crime Writer of the Year 2016, and went on to win the Specsavers Readers’ Choice Award 2016. This book has now been published in 29 countries and Schepp is now a full time writer – which in the modern publishing world says a lot!