8 December 2011

Review: CELL 8, Roslund & Hellstrom

  • published by Quercus 2011
  • ISBN 978-1-84916-147-3
  • translated from Swedish by Kari Dickson
  • 460 pages
  • source: review copy sent to me by Pan Macmillan Australia
Publisher's blurb

A cheap crooner by the name of John Schwarz earns his keep on a ferry between Sweden and Finland, singing evergreens for drunken passengers. One night, he loses his temper with a man harassing women in the crowd, beating him unconscious. As drunken brawls are commonplace on the Baltic cruising ferries, no one raises an eyebrow.

No one, that is, but Detective Ewert Grens. Concerned by the details of the case report, Grens can't help but think someone capable of such violence must have a history of it. As a precaution, he orders Schwarz arrested: one that is seemingly justified when Schwarz provides such resistance that he has to be sedated.

Suspicion turns to shock when Grens discovers that John Schwarz does not exist. When he learns that the man in his custody is in fact John Meyer Frey – an American citizen from Marcusville, Ohio – he is even more astonished. John Meyer Frey cannot be sitting in front of him: John Meyer Frey died on Death Row over six years before.

This mystery will initiate the most remarkable criminal investigation of Ewert Grens' career, the reverberations of which will reach the highest tier of international politics, and blow the worldwide debate on the death penalty wide open.

My take

My research shows CELL 8 is yet another example of a translated crime fiction title released in English out of order of original publication.
Here is the list I've worked out with original Swedish publication dates:
  • THE BEAST (2004)
  • BOX 21 (2005)
  • REDEMPTION aka CELL 8 - original title Edward Finnigans uppr├Ąttelse - (2006)
  • THREE SECONDS (2009) - my review
Check the list for yourself on the author's website.

The method by which John Meya Frey cheats Ohio's Death Row does strain the bounds of credibility a bit but the conundrum of whether a man who has already been certified as dead can be executed again is a nice one. As is whether a country like Sweden which has abolished the death penalty, and is party to an EU agreement that states that no member country will extradite a person to face a death penalty, can carry out such an extradition.

Ewart Grens carries his own burdens which leak over into this case. Lurking in the background is his own relationship with a former colleague Anni, now a brain damaged resident in a nursing home. Grens is responsible for her condition and it affects his judgement in the case of John Schwartz. He is zealous for the apprehension of Schwartz and brings him in on a charge of attempted murder when the passenger he kicked in the face on the ferry hovers between life and death in hospital.

CELL 8 is well constructed and well paced book. 17 year old John Meya Frey always protested his innocence in the murder of his 16 year old girlfriend. It seems that because he was a minor the police were only too willing to believe in his guilt and no-one really looked for an alternative answer. The reader is given a sniff of who the real killer might have been, early on, but I misinterpreted the tip.

There is an interesting irony played out in the latter pages of the book too.

My rating: 4.5

Other reviews to check

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