Reviewed by Anna Paterson in SBR 2013:1
Review Section: Factual Crime Writing
The subtitle is helpful: this engaging, hard-to-place book combines, roughly, one part historical crime inquiry to two parts novelistic storytelling. The main action, one of the many sequels to revolution and civil war in Russia, takes place in late 1918 and in 1919. Stockholm had, somewhat reluctantly, accepted the Bolshevik embassy, but was also a station in the westward migration of defeated, embittered White Russians. The tensions within the Russian community found one expression in the activities of Ryssligan (the Russian gang), an assortment of displaced persons led by a psychopathic Cossack colonel. The gang’s trademark mix of political terrorism and old-fashioned criminality was finally unscrambled in court, a notorious case at the time.
Hjulström’s research lends authenticity to the main fiction: Kaja, a news reporter and journalist – a ’New Woman’ – becomes involved in the Ryssligan case and a detailed, exciting account is ‘transmitted’ to Helena, a present-day freelance journalist and distant relative of Kaja’s, who acts as kind of historical medium. Episodes from Helena’s life recur throughout, but her rather Bridget Jones-style story is much less successful. Overall, Kaja’s resa is a readable, fascinating journey into politicised crime, set in a past that feels both distant and very close.