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Monday, 17 August 2020

‘X Ways To Die’ by Stefan Ahnhem

Published by Head of Zeus Ltd,
6 August 2020.
ISBN: 978-17-866-94-645 (HB)

How is it that I wasn’t familiar with this Scandinavian writer’s work?  Well, now I am and I can honestly say that I am blown away by his nail-biting, storytelling ability.

This fast paced thriller, ably translated into English by Agnes Broomé, is the fourth or rather the fifth, if one includes the prequel, in the series featuring tough Swedish detective Fabian Risk who operates with a small police team in Helsingberg. It picks up where its predecessor Murder X   left off and although it can be appreciated as a stand-alone, it’s probably useful to have read the earlier ones.

 A roll of the dice sets the rules of the game. Fabian who is still investigating the circumstances of the so-called suicide of a colleague, Hugo Elvin, is convinced that a member of his team murdered the victim and that the perpetrator is party to Fabian’s ongoing investigation.  And that’s not all. Fabian is certain that the suspect is a serial killer with more blood on his hands despite the huge differences in modus operandi.  The rate of gruesome murders stacks up, spreading panic, desperation   and fear in the community, and no one, not even children, are spared by seemingly random and motiveless killings.

The author then switches country boundaries to Denmark where the corrupt Head of the Homicide Unit nurses a vendetta against Fabian’s friend Donju and, by extension, him and makes it his mission to finish them both off.

But wait. As if this isn’t enough, there’s more to come. Fabian is a troubled married man with a complicated domestic life ­— a son on the run, a gravely injured daughter  — that adds authenticity and credibility to his macho personality.

This is a tense, atmospheric roller coaster with multiple strands criss-crossing like a complex piece of knitting.  Drop a stitch (lose concentration for a moment) and the reader will find that she/he must go back and catch up. With a plethora of twists and turns and unexpected events and incidents, with a dialogue that sparkles and with well developed, believable characters the suspense is never ending and, like one of those old black and white cowboy and injun movies, the action is relentless and doesn’t disappoint.

If one is looking for an intricate, multi-layered, edgy, high calibre read, this book has it in spades. Highly recommended.   
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax
Stefan Ahnhem has been working as a screenwriter for over twenty years. He has worked in both TV and film, with everything from comedy to thriller and with original ideas as well as adaptations.  In 2014 he debuted with Victim Without a Face.  Since then two more novels about the murder investigator Fabian Risk have been released. He lives in Copenhagen.

Serena Fairfax spent her childhood in India, qualified as a lawyer in England and practised in London for many years. She began writing by contributing feature articles to legal periodicals   then turned her hand to fiction. Having published nine novels all, bar one, hardwired with a romantic theme, she has also written short stories and accounts of her explorations off the beaten track that feature on her blog. A tenth, distinctly unromantic, novel is a work in progress. Thrillers, crime and mystery narratives, collecting old masks and singing are a few of her favourite things.

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