Friday, July 27, 2018

Swedish noir: The Tunnel, by Carl-Johan Vallgren

Most of the Scandinavian crime wave is made up of thrillers and police procedurals, only occasionally reaching the bleak potrayal of life in the streets that is typical of noir. Carl-Johan Vallgren reaches for noir, basing his two (so far0 novels featuring ex-junkie Danny Katz in a difficult landscape of heroin, disfunctional famiies, life on the streets, sexual deviance, and exloitation. The Tunnel, the second in the series, also focuses (almost equally) on two former friends of Danny's, from his junkie days, Eva, now a prosecuting attorney, and Jorma, a career criminal.

The novel actually begins with a failed armored car heist, in which Jorma is involved. Jorma spends most o the rest of the book seeking who is responsble for the betrayal that led to the robbery's failure and the murder of a friend, also involved in the robbery. Danny, a computer expert and former intelligence office, is involved in both the investigation of his own Jewish background and in the murder of a friend (a drug dealer) and the disappearance of the dealer's girlfriend. Eva becomes involved when Danny asks her for information relating to the drug dealer.

But Eva has her own demons, including a failed marriage (and her failure to be an adequate parent), her addiction to casual sex, and a difficult (to say the least) relationship with her boss. As all the threads are slowly drawn together (int he first two-thirds of the book) the stage is set for a violent, sexually twisted (~a la 120 Days of Sodom), and breathless rush to a consculsion. Finally, at the end. Dany once again confronts his family history and Jewish roots, and the story (and perhaps the series) comes to an emotionally crashing conclusion.

This book is a difficult read, first because of the shifting perspectives, second because of the disgusting sexual violence lying behind muh of the plot. But for fans of Swedish crime fiction who have been craving something darker and tougher, this will be an essential novel.

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