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Marklund, Liza - 'Prime Time' (translated by Ingrid Eng-Rundlow)
Paperback: 432 pages (Sep. 2006) Publisher: Pocket Books ISBN: 0743469089

It's Midsummer and Annika Bengtzon, newspaper reporter and mother, is preparing for family celebrations at her partner's parentsí island holiday home, when she gets a call to say that Michelle Carlsson, a big name TV presenter has been murdered, and Annika has been assigned to follow the story. Thomas is furious at her for leaving him to get the children to his parents alone. Annika's just returned to work after maternity leave and her relationship with Thomas is increasingly fraught with tension and anger.

Annika is instantly torn between the fascination of a major murder investigation and the call of her family. On the one hand - a murder in a remote, isolated location during the filming of a prime-time TV series with a limited number of suspects, one of whom is her own best friend, and the victim Michelle - a controversial person, and long-time target of Annika's own paper. On the other hand, her own very young children, an increasingly difficult relationship with the disgruntled and demanding Thomas and her parents-in-law who just do not approve of Annika and maintain an ongoing close friendship with Thomas' first wife.

The central mystery in PRIME TIME is a twist on the classic closed room scenario. There are only twelve suspects and there are all sorts of complicated personal and professional factors affecting all of the suspects and their relationships with the victim. There is a police investigation, and a police investigator, Q, who plays a very small role in the book. The investigation of the crime in this book is done by Annika, as she sets out to find the story and ensure her best friend is not incriminated. There is also all of the machinations and manoeuvring of media organisations, even Annika's own paper seems to be embroiled in scandals and management power struggles.

PRIME TIME is the 4th book in a series which concentrates on Annika's own life, her career and her personal relationships. There's absolutely nothing easy about Annika. In the earlier books she's a very angry, prickly and difficult woman, always complaining, always rubbing up against everyone around her. In PRIME TIME the chip on Annika's shoulder has decreased in size a little, but there are definitely times when you'd like to take both Annika and Thomas by the hand and bang their heads together. Towards the end of PRIME TIME they are both starting to see what the real problems are and they start sorting out their personal relationship and their own careers.

As Annika searches out the story behind Michelle and ultimately her murder, there are some of the 12 suspects who become very real, whilst others remain very shadowy and under-drawn. Despite the quick dissipation of the closed room scenario, as the suspects leave the scene of the murder and return to their own environments, there is a final "drawing room" denouncement.

There's some real skill in the writing here, Annika's not a character that's easy to warm to, but you really feel inclined to stay with her to the end.

Karen Chisholm, Australia
November 2006

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 17/10/2010 12:01