Persson, Leif GW - 'Falling Freely, As If In a Dream' (translated by Paul Norlen)
FALLING FREELY, AS IF IN A DREAM is the conclusion to Swedish author Leif Persson's "The Story of a Crime" trilogy, taking on no less a subject than the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme. Palme was killed by shooting at the end of February 1986 on Sveavagen in central Stockholm whilst walking home from an evening out at the cinema with his wife. The crime remains unsolved to this day. Lars Martin Johansson, chief of the Swedish National Bureau of Criminal Investigation decides to set his best officers the seemingly hopeless task of an attempt at solving this cold case. So neurotic perfectionist Lewin, superbly efficient Anna Holt and the intelligent and well connected Lisa Mattei are somewhat unwillingly given the daunting task of reviewing the enormous mass of evidence previously collected in this case.
Lewin, Holt and Mattei have to go through the witness statements, and accepted chronology regarding the assassin's escape route, the case against Christer Petterson, tried, convicted but then cleared of this crime and also need to take a closer look at the evidence gathered in relation to numerous theories in the original investigation, termed "tracks", relating to the motivation of the killing. These "tracks" with varying degrees of plausibility, cast suspicion on the Kurdish PKK, on a group of right wing police/security police conspirators, on the South African apartheid regime, and on those seeking to hide corrupt arms deals by Swedish company Bofors with India. But then Evert Backstrom, despicably corrupt and sexist police officer comes onto the scene, and inadvertently helps set the investigation onto a new path, when an art dealer buddy of his gives him a tip off about some dodgy dealings with a gun supposedly in the safe hands of the police. But Lars Martin Johansson's renowned ability to see around corners is no match for the higher political forces at work, who are keeping an eye on the investigation for their own reasons.
Characterisation and dialogue are, as usual for this author, realistic and with a keen satirical eye on the institutional workings and office politics of the police. Time has been reasonably kind to most of the detectives whose careers Persson has followed through his series, with all the main police characters in this series having featured in the earlier books. Persson is even kind enough to provide romantic interests for his principle trio of investigators, Lewin, Holt and Mattei! The ghastly Backstrom has rather less success with women, but he has managed to find an upside to being kicked off the Homicide Squad as the Lost Property Department provides lucrative opportunities for a bent copper. Lars Martin Johansson, has had a stratospheric rise through the police force over the years, and clearly has a very comfortable work and home life.
Persson skilfully pulls together the mass of theories and information that have proliferated about the crime that rocked Sweden into a coherent narrative, although the first half of the novel, focussing on the ins and outs of witness evidence was a bit hard going for this reader. The appearance of Backstrom livens up matters considerably: both in terms of adding some broad humour to the novel, and speeding up the investigation. This is an intelligent, devilishly well-constructed ending to the trilogy, and would definitely be better read after the previous books, rather than as a standalone.
Laura Root, England