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Monday 15 November 2021

‘Hell and High Water’ by Christian Unge

Translated from the Swedish by George Goulding.
Published by MacLehose Press,
19 August 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-52940-803-4 (HB)

Present-day Stockholm, and while junior doctor Tekla Berg is dealing simultaneously with a motorbike gang stabbing and a toddler with seizures, the Soder Tower goes up in flames, and Tekla’s boss, the ambitious Monica Carlsson, insists that Tekla’s to attend the incident. Among the survivors is a man with 85% burns who seems to recognise Tekla ... but can she keep him alive to talk?

This Police Procedural/gangster novel sets off at manic speed. In A&E (Unge is a doctor, and the hospital scenes crackle with authenticity). Tekla is an intriguing character, set apart from her colleagues by her difficult childhood, photographic memory and reliance on amphetamines.

The story moves from head to head in the third person: Berg; the biker gang master, Victor Umarov, his weak son, Sardor, and his businesswoman daughter, Nina; wheeling and dealing CEO Carlsson and her business contacts; Chief Inspector Dahl and his genial SWAT team buddy, Magnus Lundgren (there’s a helpful list of characters at the start).The chapters are short, so the plot moves swiftly between the burned man, the bikers, Carlsson’s determination to upgrade her hospital, Tekla’s family dilemma and the machinations of the Umarov clan. It’s atmospherically written in the Scandi noir style, with mean streets, gloom even in midsummer, and a high body count.

An intense Scandi-noir mix of medical thriller and gangsters, with an intriguingly flawed heroine and plenty of action.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Christian Unge worked unitl recently as a senior physician at the Karolinska Univertsity Hospital in southern Stockholm. He spent the early part of his career working for Médecins Sans Frontières in Congo (DRC) and Burundi, later publishing a memoir about his experiences. He also runs a popular podcast aboiut medicine. Hell and High Water is the first in a seriers of medical thrillers staring emergency doctor Tekla Berg.  

George Goulding was born in Stockholm, educated in England, and spent his legal career working for a London-based law firm. He is now a translator of Swedish literature into English, including David Lagercrantz's continuations of the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

Click on the title to read a review of her recent book
The Shetland Sea Murders

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