Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review of "Bad Blood" by Arne Dahl

Stockholm's Intercrime Unit A squad deals with serious crimes that extend beyond Sweden's borders. As this second book in the Nordic crime series opens, the team hasn't had a case in quite some time and is concerned about being split up.

Before that happens though, the FBI calls Unit A leader, Detective Superintendent Jan-Olov Hultin, to report that a Swedish literary critic named Lars-Erik Hassel has been murdered at Newark International Airport.....and the killer is on a plane headed for Stockholm.

The FBI tells DS Hultin that - before he was killed - critic Hassel was rendered mute by a diabolical device inserted into his neck.....and mercilessly tortured. This is the modus operandi of a serial murderer called the Kentucky Killer, who first used this torture method during the Vietnam War - to squeeze information out of the enemy. Afterwards, the Kentucky Killer employed this technique for his own deadly purposes. However, the Kentucky Killer died in a fiery car crash many years ago. So it looks like a copycat killer is on his way to Sweden.

Detectives from Unit A are deployed to Stockholm Airport to try to apprehend the copycat when he deplanes. However, there are too many passengers and too much confusion, and the murderer gets away. As the intercrime unit waits for the killer to make his next move they investigate Lars-Erik Hassel, to see who might have wanted the literary critic dead. Turns out Hassel was a self-important snob who mistreated his former wives and skewered many writers, ruining their careers. Almost everyone disliked Hassel, including his son. Was Hassel's murder random? A hit? Something else?

Meanwhile, the copycat killer gets busy in Sweden, and dead bodies turn up here and there. The police try to see connections among the victims, but make slow progress. Thus two members of Unit A, Detective Paul Hjelm and Detective Kerstin Holm, fly to the U.S. to consult FBI Special Agent Ray Larner - who spent years pursuing the Kentucky Killer. Hjelm and Holm makes important discoveries in America.....and their colleagues back home also obtain new evidence. This leads to some startling discoveries and a dramatic denouement.

The detectives in Unit A are an interesting bunch who navigate diverse private and professional lives. Paul Hjelm and Kirstin Holm deal with the aftermath of their illicit affair; Gunnar Nyberg - a former Mr. Sweden - is torn with guilt about his previous bad behavior; computer whiz Jorge Chavez adds a light, exotic touch to the team; and so on. The ongoing characters add engaging elements to the novel.

Although this is the second book in the series, it can be read as a standalone. I enjoyed the story and recommend it to fans of Scandinavian thrillers.

Rating: 3 stars


  1. It sounds intriguing. An international crime solving unit about to be disbanded--that says a lot about Sweden (maybe, seems like, dunno).

    1. Maybe Sweden is a relatively peaceful place to live :)