The Andalucian Friend by Alexander Söderberg is from the same stock as Ibsen, Ingmar Bergman, Wallander, and Girl with Dragon Tattoo. I remember going to a film retrospective of Swedish comedy at the Scandinavia House one summer, which isn’t comedic at all. I am a fan of Icelander Arnaldur Indridason; so I was prepared for anything with Söderberg’s debut novel.
Sophia is an enigma. She is a nurse who always seems to be smiling, happiness radiates around her, her house is different from her neighbors house because it to seems happy as if just painted, just cleaned. “that was just the way she looked, as if she had been born with a smile in her eyes.” She is certainly different from Leszek Smialy who spends his weeks off every month holed up in a hotel room, drinking day and night, waiting to get back to work for a Guzman. “He just waited for the week to be over so he could get back to work again. Leszek never understood why Guzman insisted on making him take time off.”
Lars, is a Swedish investigator, caught in a weird place as he watches the nurse, Sophia, who has gotten involved with Guzman, the son of the Swedish gang leader who is in a battle with a German gang and possession of Rotterdam. This has all been going on when Lars joins the task force and seemingly falls for Sophia. What a confused set of circumstances have ensnared us.
Add to this mix of misfits, Jens, who is a freelance arms dealer. He gets involved when his shipment of arms gets entangled in a drug shipment of Guzman’s with the German gang. Jens becomes a go between for these two gangs. He knows Sophia from the old school days. In fact they dated. Lars who is the outcast of the group of police outcasts Gunilla has assembled is collecting his own data on Sophia and his colleagues. Gunilla is the puppet master.
At some point all of this has to explode. It’s a combination of Keystone cops, Bourne, and Enemy of the State. It is very ironic that the happiest person in Sweden, the girl with smiling eyes, is being victimized by the police and by the ruthless Guzman gang, but more from the police. It has to be her good nature as a nurse, since all she has done is good, becomes the victim of these dark forces. I do recall during my visit to Sweden and especially Stockholm, even on the warmest and sunniest of spring days, when a t-shirt was too much to wear, the locals still had that eternal scowl and dark cloud hanging over their beautiful blond hair. I loved how justice and irony wove its way through this very entertaining and roller coaster debut novel.