Book Review: Cell 8 by Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom
Disclaimer: I received this advanced reading copy from the publisher as part of the Firstreads giveaway program on the assumption that I would review it. Minor changes may be present in the final version.
“Cell 8” is part of the Scandinavian thriller/mystery fad currently going on and appears to be the second book featuring Swedish police detective Ewert Grens.
Grens’ surprised when a minor scuffle on a cruise ship turns into an international incident. It seems the perpetrator was convicted of murder in the United States–and is supposedly dead! Now the U.S. wants him back so they can execute him properly, but Detective Grens and his team aren’t keen on the prospect.
I’m going to go right into SPOILERS here; this is less of a mystery book (though there is a mystery) than a soapbox. The authors don’t like the death penalty and were clearly itching to write about how much they don’t like it. Problem is, Sweden doesn’t *have* the death penalty, and hasn’t for quite some time. So, the story requires some elaborate and contrived setup to get our Swedish police officers involved with an American death penalty case.
The convict in question is extremely sympathetic and the case against him is suspiciously thin, even before later revelations, while the main spokesperson for the pro-death penalty viewpoint is an extremely unlikable nutcase.
Truth be told, Grens and the other Swedes don’t actually have much to do here; some subplots are advanced, but in the end, both the start and resolution of the central plotline are in far-off Ohio, where our main characters never go.
As for that resolution, it is, to say the least, outlandish and requires some serious suspension of disbelief that the killer’s plan never once went off-track, relying on, as it does, literally hundreds of people acting *exactly* as predicted.
The good news: For a soapbox, it’s quite well written, and I liked Grens and his colleagues (even the annoying ones.) The authors have clearly done their research on the physical “how” of execution, even if they gloss over the difference between American states’ attitudes towards the death penalty.
I suspect that the translator is more used to British than American English, based on a small slip of naming towards the beginning. Also, several words are italicized unnecessarily. I suspect they were in English in the original, and someone overlooked the transliteration issue.
I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this book, but if you liked Three Seconds and want more of Ewert Grens, or are very tolerant of soapboxing, it’s not a bad novel.