Roslund and Hellstrom - 'Two Soldiers' (translated by Kari Dickson)
Set in Sweden this is a novel of the rise of youth gangs and the police, society and the establishments apparent powerlessness to stop or amend their behaviour.
Two young men, Gabriel and Leon, friends since childhood with the only aim in life to be at the top of the wall in the local police station where the criminal gangs are ranked in terms of dangerousness. Jose Pereira records the activity of the gang, their members and recruits and maintains the wall and Detective Superintendent Ewert Grens who has a history with one of the boys, struggle to contain the damage when Leon and Gabriel are united to achieve their ultimate goal.
This is a frightening story of urban decay and people who have no allegiance except to their "family" - the criminal gang that they aspire to belong to. Using children who cannot be charged to run drugs, guns and stolen property, the gangs rule their neighbourhoods - a small unit that rule by fear and retribution. The impact on the neighbourhood, the gradual removal of services, shops, even protection from the police is documented with relentless detail.
Reference in the book is made to the London riots of 2011 and other countries where gang culture is becoming an increasing threat and concern. The book offers no solutions but a little hope for some individuals who can be removed from the immediate culture of fear. It demonstrates the powerlessness of politicians who are afraid to be condemned by society for the wrong decisions but then condemned by that same society for not making tough decisions early enough.
TWO SOLDIERS is a difficult read, with truths that we all need to hear. This is a work of fiction but I feel that it is based on a great deal of truth and a lot of people would relate to the story. In a society where so many people feel that they have no hope, the only aspiration is going to cause concern, centred as it will be on local power - rising to the top of the heap in the "family" or "gang" that is powerful – and that provides a sense of belonging that society as a whole does not. We may feel that this culture does not touch our immediate life but the cost and damage is a cause of concern to us all. It will be a long time before I can forget this book and the picture it paints.
Read another review of TWO SOLDIERS.
Susan White, England