Marked for Revenge
Emelie Schepp is rapidly securing her place as the master of the ensemble police procedural novel. Jana Berzelius, the Norrköping, Sweden public prosecutor who was introduced in MARKED FOR LIFE, is first among equals in what is projected to be a trilogy. But the supporting cast that surrounds Berzelius is every bit as interesting and riveting as she is.
MARKED FOR REVENGE, the second installment in the series, can stand alone, but it resolves questions left unanswered in the opening book and raises some possible issues --- both professional and personal --- for the third. Let’s deal with the professional first. The Norrköping police are confronted with a mystery when an airline from southeast Asia lands with a dead teenage girl from Thailand in the restroom. It quickly becomes evident that she had been functioning as a drug “mule” and died of an overdose when the capsules she had swallowed carrying the heroin she was smuggling dissolved prematurely. Another girl on the plane was also from Thailand but left abruptly before she could be questioned by police. Berzelius’ squad wants to talk to her, but she has gone missing and is being held captive by the local traffickers who ordered the shipment the two girls were carrying.
"Schepp always ensures that the reader never gets lost in the details of the plot or the characters, all of whom are memorable in their own ways.... You will want to make time to read MARKED FOR REVENGE in one sitting."
Meanwhile, a local man has been found murdered in his apartment. Unbeknownst to the department, he has a direct, if very momentary, tie to Berzelius, which she does not want the squad to be made aware of, since it would lead to other questions about her past that she is not prepared to answer.
Both cases slowly converge toward a shadowy drug kingpin known as The Old Man, who may not even exist but seems to be controlling the local drug trade. The squad has no idea how close the tentacles of the drug overload extend toward them, even as they deal with the sharp-elbowed relationships that exist among themselves professionally as well as outwardly into their personal lives. This is particularly true of Detective Inspector Mia Bolander, who is a walking train wreck in almost every aspect of her personal life. Bolander is such an interesting character --- in all of the worst possible ways --- that when she is absent from the narrative, the reader in a perverse way yearns for her return. Bolander, as with the rest of the cast, is given opportunities for redemption.
While the complexity of the plot meanders into the past and overshadows the present, Schepp always ensures that the reader never gets lost in the details of the plot or the characters, all of whom are memorable in their own ways.
You will want to make time to read MARKED FOR REVENGE in one sitting. The pages just fly by, what with two cases and the personal lives of several members of the squad moving into and out of the mix. Schepp --- through a fine and seamless translation by Suzanne Martin Cheadle --- keeps changing things up throughout the story while enabling Berzelius to pull a number of Houdini-type escapes for the purpose of keeping her personal history a secret from the team. Or most of it, anyway.
Whether Berzelius will continue to be successful in her efforts will ultimately be revealed in MARKED FOR DEATH, the final book in the trilogy. It will give Schepp’s growing audience something to look forward to.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 2, 2017