Written by Martin Mölsted — It’s April, 2009, and on a peaceful spring afternoon in Hamburg, businessman Torgrim Rygg witnesses a woman being shot dead, and sets off in a fruitless pursuit of her attacker. It’s an action that will have huge consequences for the former member of the Norwegian Secret Service, who next encounters a man shot in the arm in the same incident. The victim is Russian journalist Marko Marin, and their meeting is destined to send them both on a chase across continents in pursuit of an earth-shattering exclusive.
In a seemingly separate storyline, Dmitri, a young Russian sailor has his dreams of a simple life in the ship’s galley shattered when the Alpensturm is overrun by hijackers. The story makes headlines worldwide and there are many theories as to what is hidden in the ship’s hold – but whatever it is, there are a whole range of people prepared to kill to get their hands on it.
Thus are planted the seeds of a meandering plot which eventually intertwines in almost cinematic fashion – not surprising, I suppose, when you consider that Molsted has written screenplays as well as short form fiction and non-fiction. He is certainly a dab hand at creating engaging and believable characters, and chief among them is Rygg, an overweight, in-a-rut businessman totally bored with the nine to five and only too happy to get back into the rough and tumble of global conspiracy intrigue. Marin is another gem, a squat, unattractive chain-smoker who is ruthless in the pursuit of a good story. Add Lena, Marin’s extremely attractive girlfriend, and Sasha, their tame computer hacker, and you have an awesome foursome whose exploits keep the story moving along at breakneck pace, with Dmitri’s predicament on board the hijacked Alpensturm providing a neat counterpoint.
The background to this story is rooted in reality. In 2009, the MV Arctic Sea was hijacked in the Baltic Sea and attracted huge media interest. A month later, Russian commandos seized the ship, and although Russia still claims that the ship carried timber destined for Algeria, many observers assume that the actual cargo was military-related, and that the mission was thwarted by Israeli forces. There is still speculation over what really happened – and Molsted’s thriller offers one possible explanation.
Don’t expect that explanation to be a simple one, though. Before you get to the finale of this book, you’ll have toyed with a range of possible cargoes – timber? guns? drugs? nuclear weapons? – and a veritable League of Nations of baddies, from Israelis to Egyptians, Russians to Iranians. The truth is out there, but you’re in for the long haul before it is revealed.
My one reservation about this book is that it needs a sharper edit. It’s so clearly written by someone who has English as a second language. The Norwegian author is far too fond of the jarringly American English phrase ‘a couple’, as in ‘a couple children’, rather than ‘a couple of children’. And there are a number of occasions when the wrong pronoun is employed, such as ‘curly rivers’ – maybe meandering might have been more appropriate here, although admittedly, curly has a certain oddball charm.
That aside, Chasing The Storm is a fine crime fiction debut, and I’m happy to learn that we’re promised further books featuring Torgrim Rygg and co.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars