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Babylon Camilla Ceder, Babylon

Wahlström & Widstrand,  2010. ISBN: 9789146220442

Reviewed by Marlaine Delargy in SBR 2011:1

This is Camilla Ceder’s second novel, and it definitely fulfils the promise shown in Frozen Moment. The team of detectives featured in the first novel returns here, but without the wealth of detail that sometimes seemed to weigh down Ceder’s debut work. Christian Tell continues to lead with strength and integrity, although he is struggling to come to terms with his new boss, Pelle Höije. For his part, Höije is trying to assert his authority, and the developing relationship between the two men is skilfully portrayed. Tell and Seja Lundberg, who met through the initial investigation, are still together, although their relationship is by no means plain sailing. They both have issues when it comes to long-term commitment, and the ups and downs as they work through their differences are convincingly described. Rebecca Nykvist is a troubled young woman who is tormented by jealousy;there have been significant problems in her past relationships and she is convinced that her current boyfriend,esearch student Henrik Samuelsson,is seeing someone else. Henrik tries to convince her that she is imagining things,but Rebecca’s suspicions are aroused one night when he goes off to study at the apartment of a friend, and she decides to investigate further. Several phone calls lead her to the apartment of lecturer Anne-Marie Karpov. Henrik’s friend Axel is well aware of the affair between Henrik and Anne-Marie, which began on a study trip to Istanbul just over eighteen months ago; Henrik relies on his friend to provide an alibi if Rebecca should call when he is with Anne-Marie, but on this particular evening Axel fails to allay her suspicions. Later that night, one of the neighbours is alarmed by the sound of screams and calls the police. Both Henrik and Ann-Marie have been shot dead. Rebecca inevitably comes under suspicion when the police learn of her behaviour in the past. She was also seen by a neighbour outside the apartment block on the night of the murder. Under interrogation she admits that she was there, but denies seeing either Henrik or Anne-Marie. Meanwhile, Rebecca’s apartment is broken into by Mads Torsen, a Danish small-time criminal who has been sent to search for valuable goods; all he finds is a small clay figure, which Samuelsson acquired in a shady deal in Istanbul. Shortly afterwards, Torsen is found dead from a heroin overdose. A photograph of the clay figure is found in Samuelsson’s apartment, thus connecting the two cases. Tell decides to travel to Copenhagen to interview Anne-Marie Karpov’s ex-husband, an expert in Babylonian antiquities at the city’s art museum. Karpov is able to provide a wealth of information on the figure and similar treasures, and tells the police about the Red List, a document annotating the valuable historical objects plundered from museums in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. It seems the clay figure is on this list, and Karpov realises that his two assistants may be involved. Tell and his team soon track them down, but as far as the murders are concerned, they are back to square one. Bärneflod, meanwhile, is busy working through Henrik Samuelsson’s friends and acquaintances when the case takes an unexpected turn; the married former lover of Henrik’s friend Annelie Swerin is shot dead. Could there be a connection? As the team pool their knowledge, the identity of the killer becomes clear – but will they be in time to prevent a fourth murder? This is an assured and eminently readable novel. The themes of jealousy, envy and greed are woven skilfully through the narrative, and many readers will be looking forward to meeting Christian Tell and his team on their next case.

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