Box 21 by Roslund and Helström

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Box21Box 21 by Anders Roslund and Börge Helström (Picador, 2010)

Blurb: Three years ago, Lydia and Alena were two hopeful girls from Lithuania. Now they are sex slaves, lured to Sweden with the promise of better jobs and then trapped in a Stockholm brothel, forced to repay their “debt.” Suddenly they are given an unexpected chance at freedom, and with it the opportunity to take revenge on their enslavers and reclaim the lives and dignity they once had. What will happen now that the tables are turned and the victims fight back? In this masterful thriller, the celebrated team of Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström delve into the seedy underbelly of Stockholm. There we meet Lydia and Alena as they embark on a desperate plan to expose their captor and demand justice; police officers Sundkvist and Grens, on the trail of both Lydia’s enslavers and Jochum Lang, a notorious mob enforcer; and Hilding Oldéus, a junkie on what might be his last—and most destructive—bender. At the Söder Hospital, their destinies begin to converge in unexpected and explosive ways. 

I had a hard time rating this book. It’s well written–the characterization is good, once things get going, and the plotting and pacing are good as well. That being said, the book is about despicable people doing horrific things, and two policemen who are so concerned about a partner’s reputation that they destroy evidence without giving a single thought to stopping the bad guys.

The theme is an increasingly common one: young girls taken from Eastern European countries with a promise of a better life in the West, only to be forced into prostitution. There’s a series of crimes, a seedy cast of characters, a bent cop, and two cops who discover the truth–only to cover it up.

The thing that made me want to throw the book against the wall: the two cops investigating the crimes had evidence that would have allowed them to stop the human trafficking, and with no thought whatsoever to that aspect, they destroy the evidence; their only concern is the dead cop’s reputation and his wife’s feelings. I didn’t get the impression the authors were making a statement about police cynicism and the futility of trying to stop these criminals, it seemed like a genuine omission from the book, like nobody was supposed to look at the bigger picture.

I wasn’t sure whether to give this two stars or four, so I split the difference; it gets a bonus star for craftsmanship.

My rating: 3 stars

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2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Cell 8 by Rostrum and Hellström | Red Panda Reads

  2. Pingback: Three Seconds by Roslund and Helström | Red Panda Reads

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