The Tzer Island book blog features book reviews written by TChris, the blog's founder.  I hope the blog will help readers discover good books and avoid bad books.  I am a reader, not a book publicist.  This blog does not exist to promote particular books, authors, or publishers.  I therefore do not participate in "virtual book tours" or conduct author interviews.  You will find no contests or giveaways here.

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Entries in Mons Kallentoft (1)


Zack by Mons Kallentoft and Markus Lutteman

First published in Sweden in 2014; published in translation by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on January 23, 2018

Zack Herry is a humble Detective Inspector in Sweden with a wealthy girlfriend whose father he saved from a robbery. Zack has moved ahead of older officers to land a gig in the Special Crimes Unit. At night, he likes to party with his friend Abdula, who supplies the cocaine. Zack is a little worried that his colleagues might be tumbling to his nocturnal activities. But when he’s sleeping rather than partying, he has nightmares about his mother, a police detective whose murder was never solved.

Zack puts those worries aside as he investigates the killings and mutilations of some Thai prostitutes who worked in a massage parlor. That gives Mons Kallentoft a chance to spotlight Sweden’s hate-spewing white supremacists, who seem to have particular disdain for Thai women. One of the police detectives wonders whether there has always been so much hate, or whether the internet has amplified the voice of racists. It’s a good question.

But white supremacists aren’t the only suspects. A motorcycle gang may have committed the murders to send a message about who controls the supply of Thai prostitutes in Sweden. A profiler suspects that a loner with a grudge against women is responsible. Turkish gangsters may also be responsible.

Meanwhile, Sukayana Prikon, who owns the massage parlor where the murdered women worked, is kidnapped. The reader joins Zack in wondering why she is subjected to some brutal moments that are left to play out in the reader’s imagination.

The various plotlines come together in a central mystery: Who is killing the prostitutes, and why? But a closely-related mystery is just as engrossing: Will Zack solve the murders before he gets fired?

Zack engages in the requisite chases, shootouts, and fights, but he’s also an interesting, deeply conflicted character. People tell him that he’s a good person because he’s on the side of good people, but he feels no remorse when he kills bad people. That troubles him, so maybe he is a good person. Zack knows he has a drug problem, he knows it is impairing his judgment and jeopardizing a job, but like most people with a drug problem, he’s losing control of his ability to contain the consequences of his addiction. That can be a trite trait if an author uses addiction in an obvious effort to make a character seem realistic or interesting, but Zack’s addiction is integral to his being — and that, in turn, makes the character both interesting and realistic. The fact that his mother was murdered and that he became a cop to find her killer adds another dimension to his character.

Secondary characters, including a blind detective named Rudolph, the unfortunate massage parlor owner, and a lesbian detective who partners with Zack (and unlike most women, readily resists his charms) are developed to a satisfying degree of depth. The solution to the mystery isn’t particularly noteworthy, but the cinematic style of storytelling makes the action easy to visualize (perhaps too easy for sensitive readers who don’t want to picture wolves devouring the legs of dangling humans). The novel’s steady pace turns into a sprint as the novel nears its end. The theme of human trafficking is trendy and overdone in modern thrillers, but I’ll forgive Kallentoft since I’m happy to read any Scandinavian thriller that doesn’t dwell on snow and frigid weather and how depressing it is to be alive.