by Edith Cody-Rice
Alexander Soderburg, a Swedish television screen writer, has turned his hand to penning a first novel, The Andalucian Friend. Predictably, non-Swedes will compare this effort to the iconic Stieg Larsson novels starring his disturbed and brilliant heroine Lisbeth Salander. This thriller does not have quite the bite of the Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, but it is nonetheless an excellent read for thriller fans.
The heroine, nurse Sophie Brinkmann is the polar opposite of Lisbeth. She is a well brought up, well adjusted, middle class, beautiful and somewhat naive nurse with a normal, middlingly happy past and a teenage son. Her nursing instincts drive her to help everyone, even those in a position to kill her. Around her swirl four strands of the story – German gangsters, Spanish criminals, kinky and corrupt police and an old school friend involved in shady activities. Sophie’s character is thin, but it serves its purpose. She is the element the brings these diverse forces together and she appears to be motivated to help everyone. Predictably the final clash of these forces is brutal and bloody, an explosion of violence. The character of her Spanish criminal friend is sketched out more completely as is the violent illegal world that he inhabits. The corrupt police officers are especially intriguing and turn the tables on the reader. No one but Sophie and her son seem to be good in this novel.
A good editor could cut this novel by quite a few pages and there are loose strings that should have been tied up in the conclusion. That said, this is a worthwhile contribution to the genre and keeps the reader involved with its many twists.
Once again, kudos to the translator Neil Smith. Good translators do not get the recognition they deserve and it is a task as important as the original writing of the book. Keeping a book alive in a new language is a huge challenge and choice of words to convey the original ideas and force of a book is key. This translator had succeeded.