Three Seconds – To the Dark Side

It is a strange feeling when you start to feel support for a villain, even if it is just a fictional character. If  on reading this post, you’re thinking that sounds a tad like the so-called, ‘Stockholm Syndrome,’ you’d be right, – because I have just finished reading Three Seconds, a Swedish crime novel, set in Stockholm, an offering from writers Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom.

city hall stockholm
Stockholm in Winter

Being set in Sweden, with vignettes in Denmark and Poland, was enough to pique my interest in the story, but that increased tenfold when I began reading about Ewert Grens, the ageing Swedish detective. He is the kind who stubbornly refuses to give up on unsolved cases, and the plot contrasts him with another character, Piet Hoffman, a man with a secret life, who risks everything he loves every single day. As I read on, I thought, ‘Could these men ever be free of the choices they’d made?’


The book makes you think and such is the skill of the authors that the reader might even find him/herself, as I did, admiring the villain, who is known to you from the start. No matter how murky his world becomes, no matter how much deception or corruption this character engages in, the reader is, surreptitiously, drawn to the ‘wrong’ side of the moral and legal fence, rather than championing the side of the police hero, who solves the crime.

I began to admire the criminal’s intellect, his fortitude and his cunning, to the point that I even began to secretly wish for him to ‘to come out on top,’  to be free, to beat the odds, yet knowing that he couldn’t possibly ever win. It was then that I thought, “How could I be siding with criminality?”

On reflection, I think, it is because the villain in this story is so human. He is just like any of us, a man faulted with good and bad feelings, a man with mixed emotions. A man who shows tenderness, and hardened self-control, but also one that faced some tough choices in navigating a duplicitous existence in the criminal underworld. Yes, that is why he has my sympathy.

Freedom is a package deal – with it comes responsibilities and consequences” – Anonymous

And so the plot continues until the final reveal and ‘twist,’ that arrives almost in the very last sentence! You are on the edge of your seat until the last. Wow… my kind of writing!!!

The inclusion of a final appendix of ‘notes,’ felt as if the authors wanted to answer the questions I already had spinning around in my head. That’s a unique and welcome surprise in a crime novel, especially considering the plot is not completely fictional! Knowing that gave me so much more to Ponder About.

Winner of the Swedish Crime Novel of the Year for 2009, Three Seconds dominated the Swedish best Sellers list for 18 months and was translated into English, in 2010.

Highly Recommended.  Forestwood’s Rating: 9/10

Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm, Sweden




16 thoughts on “Three Seconds – To the Dark Side

  1. Sounds like a great book, Amanda. I’ve only read “The Girl with Dragon Tattoo” trilogy from Sweden long time ago, and I remember being completely immersed in the story. I will give this one a try too. I’m currently rereading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho after my high school days.

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    1. There are loads of great Scandinavian crime novels waiting for you! I have reviewed a few on my blog. Apparently these writers have quite a few other books. Not sure if they all involve Ewert Grens as a character, but this one can definitely be read as a stand alone, even if they do! I hope you like it as much as I did!

      I am not familiar with the Alchemist. What is it like?

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    2. I will certainly give them a try! Especially in this cold winter which is already upon us (well it’s autumn but quite cold..), Scandinavian crime novels should make for good reads!
      The Alchemist is based on the journey of a young shepherd from Andalusia to Egypt in search of treasure.. 🙂

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  2. Sounds like a great book. The Swedes seem to have cornered the market in crime writing. It is the ‘humanness of their writing which makes their crime books raise to the top. At the same time they can be very cold and chilling but on the main we tend to like the way how even the worst of the killers are presented.

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    1. Yes the Swedes have conquered the west in crime fiction but they do write well. I like the descriptions of the locations, the characters emotions and the tone of the books. True crime or American crime writers seem much more focused on action and reaction rather than descriptive text.


    1. There are loads of fantastic Scandinavian crime authors, Prior. You will enjoy it much more I think, if you do want to try some of them. Try Jo Nesbø series, Larsson’s Girl with a Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Anne Holt, Karin Fossumor for something lighter, Camilla Lackberg or Liza Marklund. Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indridason is also really good. These authors should be easily obtainable at a bookshop/on ereader/ library. Let me know if you have difficulty finding them.

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