I first read about Linda, as in the Linda Murder by Leif G.W Persson at Crime Pieces, where Sarah Ward wrote a very interesting review of this newly translated Scandinavian novel from 2005. So, I contacted the publishers and they kindly sent me a review copy. Huge thank you to Transworld, yet again!
In the middle of an unusually hot Swedish summer, a young woman studying at the Vaxjo Police Academy is brutally murdered. Police Inspector Evert Backstrom is unwillingly drafted in from Stockholm to head up the investigation.
Egotistical, vain and utterly prejudiced against everything, Backstropm is a man who has no sense of duty or responsibility, thinks everyone with the exception of himself is an imbecile and is only really capable of warm feelings towards his pet goldfish and the nearest bottle of liquor. If they are to solve the case, his long-suffering team must work around him, following the scant few leads which remain after Backstrom’s intransigence has let the trail go cold.
Linda, as in the Linda Murder is the first in the Evert Bäckström series of which I had never heard anything before requesting the review copy. What I liked about the novel is that it took place inside the police force. Usually, in crime fiction the police face the outer world where they can find both the victim and the killer. However, in Linda, the victim is an insider, and she is a woman, and not only that, but a police trainee. I thought this would be the first time that I got a glimpse inside the police as the complex, micro-society that it is.
But I had no idea what I was getting into. I am very much a fan of female investigators, so meeting Evert Bäcström was a shock. Imagine your typical male detective, and I mean this in the worst way. Bäcström is lazy, egocentric, a drunk, a racist, a misogynist, patronizing and he constantly steals his team’s achievements as his own. If you know me, you may be wondering if I finished this novel: I did and I loved it. Persson does never ever take his main character seriously and he is constantly proving the reader that everything Bäckström thinks – which is sadly, not that crazy in our society – is simply not correct. I was also very pleased with his double narrative: Bläckstrom thinks and acts differently. Mind you, if he did what he thought, he would probably be behind bars! He is actually made fun of, and I found myself – for the first time ever laughing while I read a crime novel. Actually, Bäckström very much reminded of the Irish movie The Guard. Here is the trailer so that you can get a very similar impression to that of Evert Bäckström:
Regarding the case, I thought Persson did a great job at exploring society’s ideas and preconceptions about young women, and especially, young women in the police. Persson himself is a criminologist, so I think he knows what he is talking about: the double narrative between what a young woman is thought to be and what she becomes when she is killed and, therefore, reconstructed by the team investigating her killing. Not only that, but the author also paid special attention to the connection between the women investigators and the victims, although this does not mean that other male and responsible investigators did not connect with Linda. Actually, the more mature and gender-educated did amazingly at researching Linda’s past. Also, the epilogue – only a few pages long – has some of the most convincing and insightful reflections on women’s reification by the media in big cases.
So, I would totally recommend Linda, as in the Linda Murder to anyone looking for a different crime novel. I gave it 5 stars at Goodreads because, for me, the novel has the perfect, and very difficult to find, mix of darkness and fun situations. I was also glad to add a male investigator to the list of crime fiction characters that I want to read more about.
UPDATE: After visiting Persson’s Facebook page, I have discovered that Bäckström is being adapted into a TV show – also called Backstrom– by Fox starring Rainn Wilson (The Office). It will air in 2015, but you can already check the trailer and visit its IMDB site.