Ceder, Camilla - 'Babylon' (translated by Marlaine Delargy)
Camilla Ceder's second outing for her Gothenberg police team is even more assured than her enjoyable debut novel FROZEN MOMENT. The book combines a satisfying, three-layered mystery with the lives and concerns of the irascible yet touchingly insecure Inspector Christian Tell and his colleagues.
The novel opens with a section told from the point of view of Rebecca Nykvist, an unstable woman who is pathologically jealous of her boyfriend, Henrik, a perpetual student currently studying archaeology. Rebecca has been in trouble in the past for her uncontrollable actions towards previous partners, so when Henrik and his presumed lover, a professor who teaches his course, become the victims of a crime, Rebecca is the obvious suspect.
Tell and his colleagues find some evidence to support the hypotheses that Rebecca was responsible, but other facts don't fit this picture, which soon becomes more complicated. As the police pursue their leads, the reader is drawn into their lives and concerns. Tell is in a relationship with Seja, a woman who loves the countryside and participates in left-wing demonstrations with enthusiasm. He spends a lot of time agonising over whether she is "right" for him. Other colleagues also have personal issues to contend with, as their investigation takes them to Copenhagen and reaches back into the historical past.
BABYLON is an excellent, absorbing crime novel that combines the classic elements of an ensemble police procedural with strong storytelling and characterisation. The publisher strives to compare the novel with those by Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, but it stands on its own as a strongly individual piece of work. There are other Swedish crime novelists who set their books in Gothenberg, notably Helene Tursten and Ake Edwardson, but Camilla Ceder presents a more compelling sense of location and atmosphere, and easily stands on her own as one of the better authors from this productive region of the crime-fiction world.
Maxine Clarke, England