Annika Bengtzon is a crime reporter for Stockholm's Evening Post newspaper. Mere months prior to the opening of Red Wolf Annika was held captive in a tunnel by a crazed serial killer known as The Bomber. She's back to work, but is suffering some pretty spectacular symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, not least of which is the chorus of angels that sings in her head at moments of overwhelming stress.
Annika has frequent moments of overwhelming stress.
But she's a reporter, and she gets the job done. A grim anniversary is approaching--thirty years since the bombing by home-grown Maoist terrorists of a plane at an Air Force base up near the Arctic Circle--and Annika, working the story, has an appointment to meet with a local reporter who may have new information on the unsolved case. When she gets there, she learns he's been killed in a hit and run accident that she quickly determines to be suspicious in nature.
Then a young witness she uncovers is killed.
Next a local farmer-politician.
And finally, an elementary school art teacher.
The only connection among all four victims, who've each been killed in a unique manner, is that several days later family members receive an anonymous letter in the mail with a pithy quotation from Mao's revolutionary writings.
The action gets more intense as Annika uncovers more about the Maoist cell and its members; although the cell has been inactive since the bombing, its leader has been active abroad as a revolutionary assassin, and at least one former member is now a high-profile government minister.
Liza Marklund has been a bestselling author in Sweden--and much of the rest of the world--for more than a decade. With the release of Red Wolf next month, her publishers at Atria Books are hoping that success translates to the American market. And, with the staggering success of that other writer from the far North (to whom, it would appear from this novel, at least, she is superior), and with her recent successful turn as one of James Patterson's many collaborators, it appears that American bestsellerdom may be imminent. (Marklund has been published here before, but--my guess is--in light of that other guy's gazillion copies sold Atria Books is giving her American career a reboot.)
Liza Marklund deserves a reboot, and she will deserve bestseller status when it comes. Her writing is crisp and clear, and her characters are deeply and fully realized. Annika, her philandering husband Thomas, her friend Anne Snapphane who appears to be well along the road to alcoholism; each is portrayed unflinchingly but sympathetically, and even the villains are multi-dimensional. And oh, that frigid Swedish climate.