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En rasande eld Andreas Norman, En rasande eld (Into a Raging Blaze)

Albert Bonniers förlag,  2013.

Reviewed by Anna Paterson in SBR 2013:1

Review Section: Crime Fiction

Reviewed with Chris Forsne, <cite>Vår man i världen</cite> in SBR 2013:1

It makes sense to review these two political thrillers together: both reflect the professional preoccupations of the writers as well as their strongly held and strikingly similar political views, both explore sympathetically the Islamic/ Islamist anger that interacts with what is arguably an unlawful Western overreaction and both are very well informed.

Andreas Norman is a poet turned political science student who landed a job with the Swedish Foreign Office and is now well into a diplomatic career. His interest in human rights informs what he writes, which is laudable but sometimes stylistically counterproductive. The plot of En rasande eld has every right-on feature in the rulebook, with its three honest, attractive female leads, who are experts in security policy, security operations and computer programming respectively. The one honest male is an over-weight, gay IT technician. Practically all the other men are either bureaucrats with personality issues or steel-jawed monsters of duplicity. 

All of which could have worked, if only the plot had been more convincing. Carina, a Foreign Office official, is a believable professional who suddenly turns into the archetypal blonde heroine. Her allegedly accomplished cipher of a boyfriend, a second-generation Swedish Egyptian, also loses his grip on reality when the plot requires him to be a guileless victim of UK and US security paranoia. The implausible efficiency of the MI6/CIA operators is in the end thwarted by the computer programmer and her Wikileaks-style hacker friends but not before we have had plenty of time to be intrigued by the knowing, systematic account of the technicalities of modern Euro-diplomacy and of the security systems that underpin it. 

Chris Forsne was also a political science student, but chose journalism, became a foreign correspondent and specialised in French culture and politics. In recent interviews, Forsne has spoken about her long-standing relationship with François Mitterrand. Unsurprisingly, an attractive Swedish political advisor/interpreter and her covert lover, a wise, vaguely socialist French president, are the most sympathetic characters in her thriller. 

However, the pivotal character is another real-life politician, the lightly disguised Carl Bildt, centre-right Swedish ex-Prime Minister and current Minister of Foreign Affairs. Here, his primary function is to serve as the focus and scapegoat for the hatred of the oppressed, represented by coconspirators from Iraq, Sudan, Latvia and Algeria. The Swede is the epitome of oil’n’gas obsessed western interests and also stands for all that Forsne detests most in people. He is kidnapped by the international collaboration of the vengeful, kept under wraps and is literally, but not lethally, crucified for all our sins. A waste in literary terms, because this troubled, unpleasant but plausible man provided a kind of psychological glue that held together the skilfully and intelligently written but crazily disjointed narrative. 

Other reviews by Anna Paterson

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