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A book review of Box 21

Updated on March 9, 2011

Since the success of Stig Larssen’s Millennium series, Swedish and other Scandinavian crime novels have become more acceptable and available to readers in the United States and other countries. Box 21 is one of these.

Box 21 is co-written by Swedish authors Anders Rosland and Borge Hellstrom. Rosland is a journalist and Hellstrom an ex-criminal. The tale weaves Swedish detectives, Lithuanian prostitutes, and criminals together until it climaxes in a hospital. This is one of three novels to feature Inspector Grens. The other two are Three Seconds and The Beast.

The story is about convincing attractive young foreign girls to move to Sweden with the promise of excellent jobs. When Lithuanians Lydia and Alena get to Sweden they have to pay back the money it took to move them to Sweden from Lithuania. They agree to be prostitutes by being raped and beaten. Their pimp keeps the women locked in their rooms and keeps them unfamiliar with the local customs and language. They are allowed outside in the custody of their Russian pimp. This is a good read, and I recommend it, but some of the characters can be abrasive and unsympathetic. Regardless, it is a worthwhile book.

The plot moves back and forth between time and characters until the incident that unweaves the story.  Police go to where someone has reported screams and a beating, and Lydia beaten with a whip that left her back shredded and raw.

Lydia is placed in a hospital to recover from the beating. She dodges the police and takes a group of doctors hostage, and ends up in the morgue with her captives.  She through a police translator.

The plot moves between the characters, prostitutes, police, drug addicts, enforcers and minor characters as the mystery unfolds.  The authors show how Lydia and Alena deal with forced prostitution, and backgrounds and intensions of the police officers.  The story smoothes out after Lydia is in the hospital.  The story unravels and concludes when the last page reveals the final secret.

Box 21 is the storage bin that contains the secrets that is the key to the solution of the mystery. Box 21’s early jerkiness and names that American ears aren’t used to are my only complaints, but overcome these objections as the names become familiar. The plots conclusion makes this book a worthwhile read.

The new popularity of Swedish, and other foreign novels have gained fans in America for novels with a different perspective and outlook. The plots and stories are interesting and new by offering different styles. I recommend this entertaining and enjoyable mystery.


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