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Friday 10 March 2017

‘The Brother’ by Joakim Zander

Published by Head of Zeus,
6 October 2016.
ISBN 9781781859216

The Brother starts in Bergort, a rough suburb of Stockholm, where Yasmin and her younger brother, Fadi, are living in poverty. Their parents are absent most of the time, either at work or asleep, and the teenagers are left to their own devices. They spend their time hanging around the streets in gangs but they are adrift and there is no sense of belonging. Yasmin helps out at the recording studio and when Fadi and his friends break in using her pass key, Yasmin is forced to flee Sweden.

Five years on, Yasmin is living in New York with her drug-addict artist boyfriend, and has landed a top job for an agent in advertising. Although still feeling guilty for abandoning her brother, she has made no effort to contact her family since she left. Yasmin hears that Fadi has been killed in Syria. However she receives an email from her mother, which seems to show Fadi in the background and leads Yasmin to believe that he is still alive. Under false pretences, Yasmin persuades her employers to pay for a trip to Sweden so that she can find the source of the street art they are interested in, while using it as an opportunity to search for her brother.

Meanwhile, Klara is a Swedish researcher working in London on a presentation for a summit on the privatisation of policing in Europe. Events in London leave her feeling that something dangerous is going on and she is not sure what or who she can trust. When Klara goes to Sweden for the summit the two story threads entwine and it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems.

This is a dark novel exploring contemporary issues of life in poverty and the need for acceptance. Fadi is a tragic character drawn in by jihadi propaganda simply because he is lonely and lost and does not feel he has a future.

The chapters switch between the three viewpoints, Yasmin and Klara, and retrospectively from Fadi which can be a bit confusing but gives the reader an understanding of the back story that is integral to the heart of the book. 
Reviewer Christine Hammacott

Joakim Zander was born in 1975 in Stockholm, Sweden. He was raised in the small town of Söderköping but, growing up, he also lived in Syria and Israel and was a high-school exchange student in the USA. After completing his military service in the Swedish Navy, he studied law at Uppsala University and later earned a PhD in Law from Maastricht University. Cambridge University Press published his dissertation, The Application of the Precautionary Principle in Practice, which was awarded the Rabobank Prize. Zander has worked for the European Parliament and the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. He currently lives in Lund, Sweden, with his wife and two children.

Christine Hammacott lives near Southampton and runs her own design consultancy. She started her career working in publishing as a book designer and now creates covers for indie-authors. She writes page-turning fiction that deals with the psychological effects of crime. Her debut novel The Taste of Ash was published in 2015.

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