Crime Fiction Alphabet: A is for Another Time, Another Life

This isn’t the sort of book I usually read, but something about it intrigued me. A crime story spanning twenty-five years. A mystery with much to say about society and politics. A story told in three acts. A book with strong roots in fact …

It’s the kind of book I would have bought for my father once upon a time.

The first act, the shortest of the three, opens in 1975. Six young people enter the West German Embassy in Stockholm, and a siege begins. I watched events unfold, as the police watched and responded, and I was very quickly hooked. I didn’t feel that I was reading a crime novel, I felt that I was reading an extended magazine feature, one that illuminated a story that I might otherwise have missed.

When the siege ended just one question hung in the air. Who else? Who had helped the six who went into the embassy?

The second act was set fourteen years later. A civil servant was murdered in his own home. The detectives charged with the investigation worked steadily through the evidence, finding that the victim had many secrets, but just as they felt they were on the point of a breakthrough, that the murder maybe had its roots in events that had happened ten years earlier, they were pulled off the case. The investigation was halted. By a senior official who was at best incompetent and at worst corrupt.

And so more questions hung in the air.

This act felt like a solid piece of crime fiction. There was little action and drama, but much dialogue, discussion and there was the opportunity to look over the shoulders of detectives at work. The story moved slowly but it continued to hold my attention because it felt so real. I came to know the detectives as if they were colleagues.

Like them, I wanted answers.

The final act, set ten years later, provided them. A new man, the proverbial new broom sweeping clean, set about tying up some of the loose ends left by his predecessor. New investigations implicated somebody close to the heart of government, someone who might one day hold a great deal of power …

I was impressed by the tightness of the plotting, and that though the story was complex it was not at all difficult to follow. The story stuck, even when I put the book to one side for a period of weeks when life left me with no reading time.

I was held from beginning to end, by a very capable piece of crime writing, set in a very real and wonderfully evoked world.

*****

The Crime Fiction Alphabet is hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.

“Each week, beginning Monday 21 May 2012, you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week …”

So next week, B is for … ?

10 responses

  1. I hated the previous one (Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End – or Winter’s Longing and Summer’s End) – but several good reviews have persuaded me to give this one a try despite its length. The earlier book was so long, repetitive, obvious and misogynistic, with too many identical male police/spy characters – for my taste. (And the solution to the main mystery was obvious, to boot.)

  2. I agree this is “the kind of book I would have bought for my father once upon a time”. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed it so much the action spread out over so many years is just the sort of book enjoyed by men of a certain age.

  3. Pingback: Review: Another Time, Another Life, by Leif GW Persson | The Game's Afoot

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