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Den sjätte pasageraren
(The Sixth Passenger)
Bonniers, 2002. ISBN: 9100578584
Reviewed by Peter Linton in SBR 2003:1
For English readers, a Swedish book by an author called Theodor Kallifatides is likely to be an eye-opener. Surely that should be Kallifatidesson or something with a more Scandinavian ring to it? The answer is simple. Mr Kallifatides emigrated from his native Greece to Sweden nearly 40 years ago. He has since published a large number of books, and is renowned for his crisp clear Swedish style. Now he is a grand old man of Swedish letters, and has been awarded the title of “Professor” by the Swedish Government for his services to Swedish literature.
His latest book, The Sixth Passenger, is the second in what, for him, is a new genre: thrillers. A small passenger plane crashes into a lake just before landing at Stockholm, killing all the occupants. A police inspector called Kristina Vendel (also the heroine of Kallifatides’ first thriller) happens to be on the scene, and starts investigating. Five of the passengers are quickly identified as assorted well-known, rich and influential people, but the sixth is an unknown young boy, apparently of Asian origin. An autopsy reveals mysterious scars on the boy’s back. It turns out that the other five passengers, although apparently healthy, were all in urgent need of transplant operations. So the boy may be an organ donor who has already provided some organs and is now to contribute more, probably with fatal consequences to himself.
The story gives Mr Kallifatides the opportunity to tell a fast-paced and sometimes gruesome detective yarn, and also to comment, from an immigrant’s point of view, on Sweden and Swedish society, as exemplified by the five identified passengers. For English people, raised on the notion of Sweden as a classless society, this provides an interesting insight into the reality as seen by an immigrant.
In a recent talk, Mr Kallifatides spoke about the origins of this book. He described how, one summer’s day, he was lying on the grass in a Stockholm park when he saw a small passenger plane fly past. That set him speculating about the plane and its passengers. The character of the female police inspector was based partly on his own daughter and her contemporary problems, instead of the traditional grumpy middle-aged male detective. All in all, it is a skilful and original version of the thriller genre, dealing with contemporary hot topics.
Also by Theodor Kallifatides
Other reviews by Peter Linton
Other reviews in SBR 2003:1
- Gerda Antti, Livet skriver kapitel (Life Writes its Chapters). Reviewed by Sarah Death.
- Majgull Axelsson, En stad av slott (A City of Castles). Reviewed by Linda Schenck.
- Ernst Brunner, Fukta din aska. C M Bellmans liv från början till slut (Moisten Your Mortal Ashes. C M Bellman's Life from Beginning to End). Reviewed by Birgitta Thompson.
- Stewe Claeson, Rönndruvan glöder (The Rowan's Cluster Glows). Reviewed by Charles Harrison-Wallace.
- Stig Claesson, Efter oss syndafloden (Après nous le déluge). Reviewed by Henning Koch.
- Åke Edwardson, Segel av sten (Sails of Stone). Reviewed by Irene Scobbie.
- Anna Ehn, Man ska vara tyst när man önskar (Make a Silent Wish). Reviewed by Sarah Death.
- Per Gunnar Evander, Plötsligt medan dimman lättar (Suddenly While the Mist is Lifting). Reviewed by Rick McGregor.
- Maaret Koskinen, I begynnelsen var ordet: Ingmar Bergman och hans tidiga författarskap (In the Beginning Was the Word: Ingmar Bergman and his early writings). Reviewed by Annika Lindskog.
- Björn Larsson, Den sanna berättelsen om Inga Andersson (The True Story of Inga Andersson). Reviewed by Tom Geddes.
- Ulla-Lena Lundberg, Marsipansoldaten (The Marzipan Soldier). Reviewed by Silvester Mazzarella.
- Henning Mankell, Innan frosten (Before the Frost). Reviewed by Laurie Thompson.
- Jan Myrdal, Gubbsjuka. Reviewed by Eivor Martinus.
- Cilla Neumann, Dem oss skyldiga äro (Those Who Trespass Against Us). Reviewed by Linda Schenck.
- Håkan Nesser, Kära Agnes! (Dear Agnes!). Reviewed by Stig Olsson.
- Johanna Nilsson, Rebell med frusna fötter (Rebel With Frozen Feet). Reviewed by Sarah Death.
- Elisabeth Rynell, Till Mervas (To Mervas). Reviewed by Irene Scobbie.
- Niklas Rådström, Kvartett (Quartet). Reviewed by Anne Born.
- Friedrich Strindberg, Under jorden i Berlin (Underground in Berlin). Reviewed by Eivor Martinus.
- Jerker Virdborg, Svart krabba (Black Crab). Reviewed by Stig Olsson.
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