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The Swedish Girl

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swedishgirlWritten by Alex Gray — The bestseller lists are peppered with crime books set in Scotland or Scandinavia, so it was only a matter of time before someone attempted to bring together these two fine traditions within the genre. The Swedish Girl is the 10th book featuring Glaswegian author Alex Gray’s Scottish police officer William Lorimer, but it’s storyline leads us over to Sweden too.

Our protagonist has been promoted to Detective Superintendent, but although he’s been pushed upstairs it doesn’t stop him from leaving his office and getting his hands dirty in the pursuit of a cold-blooded killer. Or, as it happens in this book, could there be two, unrelated murderers terrorising the women of Glasgow? As in previous outings, he is helped in his quest by psychologist and criminal profiler Solly Brightman.

The Swedish girl of the title is beautiful, rich, Eva Magnusson. She is the apple of her father’s eye, and he doesn’t hesitate to help her out when she wants to study at a Glasgow university. Give her a few quid to boost her student loan? Present her with the hardly-used telly from the spare bedroom? Don’t be daft – this doting dad flies in from Stockholm in his private jet, buys Eva a well-appointed flat, and then sets about hand-picking the fellow students who will share it with her.

With such a stifling home life, it is no wonder that Eva wants to live it up a bit. However that new-found freedom ultimately leads to her gruesome death, and it is one of her housemates who finds the body. Kirsty Wilson is everything that Eva is not – chubby, a great cook, and loved and supported by her mother and father. Oh, and the aforementioned dad just happens to be Detective Sergeant Alistair Wilson, a member of Lorimer’s team, so Kirsty is already a friend to the family.

Which explains why the Detective Superintendent sits up and take notice when another of the flatmates is arrested and charged with Eva’s murder. The catch is that Kirsty refuses to accept the accused man’s guilt. When another woman, bearing a striking resemblance to the Swedish girl, is also murdered on the streets of Glasgow, Lorimer and his team begin to realise that Kirsty could be right. But if the wrong man is behind bars, who is the killer and why is he targeting beautiful blondes?

Alex Gray has a sharp ear for dialogue and a fine sense of place. The action moves from Scotland to Stockholm as the plot thickens, and the book is populated by characters so deftly drawn and realistic that I felt I’d known them for years. I loved Kirsty in particular. She is a down-to-earth, gutsy, bright young lady, and I hope we will see more of her in future books. As ever, Lorimer is a fine central character who is understandably at the heart of all the action, but I found the unending cheeriness of Solly Brightman rather wearing at times.

I was also a bit disappointed with the denouement. Everything fitted together perfectly but I somehow expected more and was left feeling a little short-changed as I reached the final page.

The book is released 7 March. You can read an interview with author Alex Grey here.

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£6.49

CFL Rating: 3 Stars

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