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Beneath a dark winter sky . . . death waits patiently.
A journalist is murdered in the frozen white landscape of a northern Swedish town. Annika Bengtzon, a reporter at a Stockholm-based tabloid, was planning to interview him about a long-ago attack against an isolated air base nearby, and now she suspects that his death is linked to that attack.
Against the explicit orders of her boss, she begins to investigate the event, which is soon followed by a series of shocking murders. Annika knows the murders are connected. At the same time, she begins to suspect that her husband is hiding something, and nothing can counteract the loneliness that has crept into her life.
Behind everything lurks the figure of the Red Wolf, a cold-blooded killer with the soul of a lover. In the end, she must discover the truth not only about the murders but also about the lies that are destroying her own family.
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Liza Marklund is an author, journalist, and goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. Her crime novels, featuring the relentless reporter Annika Bengtzon, instantly became international hits and have sold millions of copies in thirty languages worldwide. She lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and Marbella, Spain, where she is at work on the next installment of the series. Visit her website at LizaMarklund.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 10
Annika Bengtzon stopped at the entrance to the newsroom, blinking against the sharp white neon lighting. The noise crashed against her, chattering printers, whirring scanners, the faint tapping of trimmed nails against keyboards. People feeding machines with text, images, letters, commands, signals, filling digital stomachs with no hope of ever finishing the job.
She took a few deep breaths and sailed out into the room. Over by the news desk the only activity was of the focused variety that was for the moment entirely silent. Spike, the boss, was reading some pages with his feet crossed on his desk. The temporary head of news was skimming the shimmering computer screen with increasingly red eyes, Reuters and French AFP, Associated Press and TTA and TTB, domestic and foreign, sports and financial, news and telegrams from all over the world, an endless stream. The exultant shouting hadn’t yet started, no noisy enthusiasm or disappointment about stories that had either come off or blown up, excited arguments advocating one particular approach or another.
She slid past them without looking, and without being seen.
Suddenly a noise, a challenge, a voice breaking the electronic silence.
“So you’re off again?”
She started, took an involuntary step to one side. Let her gaze swing toward Spike’s voice, and was blinded by a low-energy lamp.
“I read that you’re flying to LuleÅ this afternoon.”
The corner of the morning team’s desk hit her in the thigh as she tried to get to her glass box too quickly. She stopped, shut her eyes for a moment, and felt her bag slide down her arm as she turned around.
But the editor had already moved on, leaving her all at sea, caught between people’s stares and digital sighs. She licked her lips, hoisted her bag onto her shoulder again, feeling their skepticism stick to the nylon of her quilted jacket.
Set sail, away, home. The aquarium came ever closer. Relieved, she slid the door open and fled in through the tired curtains. Slid the door shut behind her, resting the back of her head against the cool glass.
At least they had let her keep her room.
Stability was becoming more and more important, she knew that much, both for her personally and for society as a whole. As chaos broke out and the nature of war was changing, it was more important than ever to look back, to learn from history.
She dropped her bag and her coat on the visitors’ couch and switched the computer on. News reporting felt increasingly distant, even though she was sitting in the middle of its pulsing, electronic heart. Things that led the front page today were forgotten tomorrow. She no longer had the energy to keep up with AP’s ENPS, the news beast of the digital age.
She ran her fingers through her hair.
Perhaps she was just tired.
She sat patiently with her chin on her hands as all the programs loaded, then opened up her material. She thought it was looking pretty interesting already, but the suits in charge weren’t so enthusiastic.
She recalled Spike out there, his voice above the waves.
Gathered together her notes and prepared her presentation.
The stairwell was dark. The boy closed the apartment door behind him, listening intently. The loose window on the stairs up to old Andersson was whistling as usual, the old boy’s radio was on, but otherwise it was quiet, completely quiet.
You’re useless, he thought. There’s nothing here. Wimp.
He stood there for a few moments, then set off determinedly for the front door.
A real warrior would never behave like that. He was almost a master; Cruel Devil was about to become a Teslatron God; he knew what mattered—that you must never hesitate in battle.
He pushed the door open, the same plaintive creak. The endless winter snow meant that the door only opened a fraction, seeing as no one had cleared the steps that morning. He forced his way out, squeezing through the gap. His rucksack caught on the door handle, though, and the unexpected jerk almost made him weep with annoyance. He tugged and pulled until one of the seams split, not caring.
He stumbled down the steps, waving his arms madly to keep his balance. At the bottom, he peered through the falling snow above the fence and stopped still.
The whole sky was illuminated by a blue light swirling against the black backdrop, coming and going, coming and going.
They’re here now, he thought, feeling his throat tighten. This is for real.
He set off, but stopped next to a broken lawn mower that was hardly visible under the snow, hearing his heart hammering once more, faster and faster, thud, thud, thud, thud. He screwed his eyes shut.
He didn’t want to see, didn’t dare go up and look.
He stood there, his ears pricking, feeling his hair gel stiffen in the cold. Hard flakes landed on his nose. Every sound was wrapped in the cotton wool of the snow, the sound of the ironworks barely audible.
Then he heard voices. People talking. A car engine, maybe two.
He opened his eyes as wide as he could, looking over the fence toward the soccer field.
Police, he thought. Not dangerous.
He waited until he had calmed down before creeping toward the road and leaning carefully forward.
Two police cars and an ambulance, people with confident postures and broad shoulders, with belts and uniforms.
Weapons, the boy thought. Pistols. Bang, bang, you’re dead.
They were standing there talking, walking about and pointing; one man had a roll of tape that he was unwinding; a girl closed the back doors of the ambulance before getting into the passenger seat.
He waited for the sirens, but they didn’t come.
No point rushing to the hospital.
Because he’s already dead, the boy thought. There’s nothing I could have done.
The sound of a bus accelerating grew louder down the road; he watched the number 1 go past the fence, annoyed that he had missed it. His mom got so angry if he was late.
He ought to hurry. He ought to run.
But he stayed where he was, his legs refusing to move, because he couldn’t go onto the road—there might be cars, gold-colored cars.
He sank to his knees, his hands shaking, and started to cry, wimp, wimp, but he couldn’t stop.
“Mom,” he whispered, “I didn’t want to see anything.”
Anders Schyman, the editor in chief, unfolded the graph of the circulation figures on the conference table in front of him. His hands were twitchy, a bit sweaty. He already knew what the columns showed, but the conclusions and analysis affected him in a way that actually made him blush.
It was really working. It was going to be okay.
He took a deep breath, put his hands facedown on the table, leaned forward, and let the information sink in.
The new direction for the news team was making a clear difference, both to the circulation figures and to the finances. Here it was, in black and white. It was working, the bitterness from the latest round of cutbacks was dying down. The reorganization was complete, people were motivated, working toward a common goal, in spite of the cuts.
He walked around the shiny walnut table, his fingers stroking the wood. It was a beautiful piece of furniture. He had deserved it. His high-handed treatment of the staff had turned out to be exactly the right thing to do.
I wonder if anyone else could have done it, he thought, even though he knew there was no one else. He had finally been able to prove himself.
The deal he had worked out with the printers had cut their print costs by 8 percent. That was saving the owners millions each year. And the recession meant that the cost of paper had gone down, which of course he couldn’t take any credit for, but it all added to the successful development of the business. The recruitment of a new sales manager had helped attract advertisers, and in the last three-quarters they had taken market shares from both the morning papers and the broadcast media.
And who was it who had fired the old fogy who was still selling advertising space like he was working on some small-town local paper?
Schyman smiled to himself.
But the most important thing was probably his continued development of sales on the front page and flyers. He wasn’t counting his chickens, but, fingers crossed, it looked like they were going to catch The Competition during the next financial year, or possibly the one after.
The editor in chief stretched, massaging the small of his back. For the first time since he arrived at the Evening Post he felt a sense of real satisfaction. This was how he had imagined his new job would be.
It was just a bit of a fucker that it had taken almost ten years.
“Can I come in?” Annika Bengtzon asked over the intercom.
He felt his heart sink, the magic fade. He breathed in and out a couple of times before going over to his desk to press the reply button and say “of course.”
He stared out at the Russian embassy as he waited for the reporter’s nervous steps outside the door. The newspaper’s success meant that he had finally started to get some respect out in the newsroom, which was most noticeable in the fact that there was less traffic through his door. This was partly explained by the new way the newsroom was organized. Four all-powerful editors worked shifts, running the various departments, and it was working just as he had planned. Instead of making him weaker, the delegation of power had actually made him mightier and more powerful. He had handed the responsibility down, and instead of having to argue constantly with the whole of the staff, he imposed his authority through his cardinals.
Annika Bengtzon, the former head of the crime team, had been invited to become one of the four. She had declined. They had fallen out badly. Schyman had already revealed his plans for her, seeing her as one of three possible heirs, and wanted to get ...
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Book Description Transworld Publishers Limited, 2010. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0552162310