'That night he did something so controversial that he'd rather be suspected of murder than tell anyone what he was really doing. What could possibly be worse than that?' Trainee journalist Annika Bengtzon has secured a summer placement at Sweden's biggest tabloid newspaper. She's desperate for this to be her big break, although manning the tip-off phoneline isn't quite what she had in mind... Until a caller tells her that the naked body of a young woman has been found in a nearby cemetery. As she pieces together details of the young woman's life, Annika stumbles across video footage that places the main suspect hundreds of miles from the crime scene, right at the time of the murder. Are the police looking for the wrong man? There is suddenly far more at stake here than Annika's career, and the more questions she asks, the more she leaves herself dangerously exposed.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Liza Marklund is an author, publisher, journalist, columnist, and goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. Her crime novels featuring the relentless reporter Annika Bengtzon instantly became an international hit, and Marklund's books have sold 12 million copies in 30 languages to date. http://www.lizamarklund.com/Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"There's a dead girl in Kronoberg Park."
The voice was breathless, the words slurred, suggesting drug use. Annika Bengtzon looked away from her screen and fumbled for a pen amongst the mess on her desk.
"How do you know?" she asked, sounding more sceptical than was strictly called for.
"Because I'm standing right next to it, for fuck's sake!"
The voice rose to a falsetto and Annika had to hold the phone away from her ear.
"Okay, how dead?" she said, aware that the question sounded ridiculous.
"Bloody hell, completely dead! How dead can you be?"
Annika looked around the newsroom uneasily. Spike, the head of news, was sitting over at the newsdesk, talking on the phone. Anne Snapphane was fanning herself with a pad of paper behind the desk opposite, and Picture-Pelle had just switched on his Mac over at the picture desk.
"I see," she said, as she found a Biro in an empty coffee cup and an old printout of a news agency telegram, which she started making notes on the back of.
"In Kronoberg Park, you said. Whereabouts?"
"Behind a headstone."
The man on the other end started to cry. Annika waited in silence for a few seconds. She didn't know what to do next. The tip-off line - officially known as the Hotline but only ever referred to in the office as Cold Calls - was almost only ever used by pranksters and nutters. This one was a strong candidate for the latter.
"Hello . . . ?" Annika said cautiously.
The man blew his nose. He took several deep breaths and started talking. Anne Snapphane was watching Annika from the other side of the desk.
"I don't know how you keep answering those calls," she said when Annika had hung up.
Annika didn't respond, and just carried on making notes on the back of the telegram.
"I have to have another ice-cream or I'll die. Do you want anything from the canteen?" Anne Snapphane asked, standing up.
"I just need to check something first," Annika said, picking up the phone and dialling the police emergency desk. It was true. Four minutes ago they had received a report of a dead body in the section of the park facing Kronobergsgatan.
Annika got up and went over to the newsdesk, holding the telegram in her hand. Spike was still talking on the phone, his feet up on the desk. Annika stood right in front of him, demanding his attention. The head of news looked up, annoyed.
"Suspected murder, a young girl," Annika said, waving the printout.
Spike ended his call abruptly by simply putting the phone down, and dropped his feet to the floor.
"Is it from one of the agencies?" he wondered, turning towards his screen.
"No, Cold Calls."
"The emergency desk have got it, at any rate."
Spike looked out over the newsroom.
"Okay," he said. "Who have we got here?"
Annika made her move. "It's my tip-off."
"Berit!" Spike yelled, getting up. "This year's summer killing!"
Berit Hamrin, one of the paper's older reporters, picked up her handbag and came over to the newsdesk. "Where's Carl Wennergren? Is he working today?"
"No, he's on holiday, sailing round Gotland," Annika said. "This is my tip-off; I took the call."
"Pelle, pictures!" Spike yelled towards the picture desk.
The picture editor gave him a thumbs-up. "Bertil Strand," he shouted.
"Okay," the head of news said, turning to Annika. "So what have we got?"
Annika looked down at her scribbled notes, suddenly aware of how nervous she was.
"A dead girl, found behind a headstone in the Jewish Cemetery in Kronoberg Park on Kungsholmen."
"So it isn't necessarily a murder, is it?"
"she's naked and was strangled."
Spike looked at Annika intently. "And you want to do this one yourself?"
Annika swallowed and nodded, and the head of news sat down again and pulled out a pad of paper. "Okay," he said. "You can go with Berit and Bertil. Make sure we get good pictures. We can sort the rest out later, but we have to get good pictures."
The photographer was pulling on the rucksack containing his equipment as he walked past the newsdesk.
"Where is it, again?" he said, aiming his question at Spike.
"Kronoberg Prison," Spike said, picking up the phone.
"Park," Annika said, looking to see where her bag was.
"Kronoberg Park. The Jewish Cemetery."
"Just make sure it isn't a domestic row," Spike said, before dialling a London number.
Berit and Bertil Strand were already on their way to the lift down to the garage, but Annika paused.
"What do you mean by that?" she said.
"Exactly what I said. We aren't interested in domestics."
The head of news turned his back on her demonstratively. Annika felt her anger rise through her body and hit her brain like a shot.
"That wouldn't make the girl any less dead, would it?" she said.
Spike's call was picked up at the other end and she realized the discussion was over. She looked up and saw that Berit and Bertil had already disappeared. She hurried to her desk, pulled out her bag from beneath the desk drawers and ran after her colleagues. The lift had gone, so she took the stairs. Fuck, fuck, why did she always have to argue? She was about to miss her first big story just because she wanted to put the head of news in his place.
"Idiot!" she said out loud to herself.
She caught up with the reporter and photographer at the entrance to the garage.
"Okay, we stick together until there's a good reason to split up," Berit said, making notes in her pad as she walked. "I'm Berit Hamrin, by the way. I don't think we've been introduced."
The older woman smiled at Annika, and they shook hands as they got into Bertil Strand's Saab, Annika in the back and Berit in the front.
"There's no need to slam the door so hard," Bertil Strand said, looking at Annika reproachfully over his shoulder. "You'll damage the paintwork."
Good God, Annika thought.
"Oh, sorry," she said.
The photographers treated the newspaper's vehicles as their personal company cars. Almost all of them took their responsibilities extremely seriously. Maybe that was because the photographers, without exception, were all men, Annika thought. Even though she'd only been at the Evening Post for seven weeks, she was already well aware of the sanctity of the photographers' cars.
She'd had to postpone several interviews because various photographers had been busy putting their cars through the carwash. And that also gave her an indication of just how important people thought her articles were.
"It's probably best to avoid Fridhemsplan and approach the park by the side streets," Berit said as the car approached Rålambsvägen. Bertil Strand put his foot down and just made the lights, heading off down Gjörwellsgatan towards Norr Mälarstrand.
"Can you run through what the bloke on the phone told you?" Berit said, swivelling in her chair so she could look back at Annika.
Annika pulled out the crumpled telegram.
"Well, there's a young girl lying dead behind a headstone in Kronoberg Park. Naked, probably strangled."
"Who was the caller?"
"Some junkie, from the sound of it. His mate was taking a piss against the railings and caught sight of her through the bushes."
"Why did they think she'd been strangled?"
Annika turned the paper to read something she'd written along the edge of the sheet.
"There was no blood, her eyes were wide open and there were marks on her neck."
"That doesn't necessarily mean she was strangled, or even murdered," Berit said, turning to look ahead again.
Annika didn't answer. She looked out through the Saab's tinted windows at the people sunbathing in Rålambshov Park. The glittering waters of Riddarfjärden spread out ahead of them. She had to squint, in spite of the tinted glass. There were two windsurfers heading towards the island of Långholmen, but they weren't doing terribly well. There was scarcely any breeze to lift the heat today.
"What a great summer we're having," Bertil Strand said, turning left into Polhemsgatan. "Pretty unexpected, after all the rain we had in the spring."
"Yes, I was lucky," Berit said. "I've just had my four weeks off. Sun every single day. We can leave the car just behind the fire station."
The Saab cruised the last few blocks of Bergsgatan. Berit had undone her seatbelt before Bertil Strand even hit the brakes, and was out of the car before it stopped. Annika hurried after her, momentarily taken aback as the heat outside hit her.
Bertil Strand parked in a turning circle as Berit and Annika headed off along the side of a red-brick building from the fifties. The tarmac path was narrow, with a stone kerb along the edge of the park.
"There's a flight of steps up here," Berit said, already out of breath.
Six steps later and they were up in the park itself. They jogged along a tarmac path that led to an elaborate playground. To their right were several sheds; Annika read the words "Park Games" as she ran past. There was a sandpit, benches, picnic tables, climbing frames, slides, swings and other things for kids to climb and play on. A few mothers and their children were in the playground, but it looked like they were packing up. At the far end two uniformed policemen were talking to another mother.
"I think the cemetery's a bit further down, towards Sankt Göransgatan," Berit said.
"You certainly know your way around," Annika said.
"Do you live near here?"
"No," Berit said. "This isn't the first murder in this park."
Annika saw that the police were busy unrolling their blue and white tape to cordon off the area. So they were emptying the playground and closing it off to the public.
"It's a good job we got here quickly," she muttered to herself.
They turned off to the right, following a path that led to the top of the hill.
"Down to the left," Berit said.
Annika ran on ahead, crossing two more paths, and suddenly there it was. She saw a row of black Stars of David standing out against the greenery. "I can see it," she shouted behind her, and from the corner of her eye saw that Bertil Strand had almost caught up with Berit.
The railings were black, and attractively ornate. The iron uprights were linked by metal circles and bows. Each railing was crowned by a stylized Star of David. She was running into her own shadow and realized that she was approaching the cemetery from the south. She stopped on the little hill overlooking the graves, where she could get a good view. The police hadn't cordoned off this section of the park yet, but she could see that the northern and western approaches had already been blocked.
"Hurry up!" she called to Berit and Bertil Strand. The railings enclosed the little Jewish cemetery and its worn granite headstones. Annika quickly counted thirty or so of them. The vegetation had almost taken over and the whole area looked overgrown and neglected. The cemetery covered an area of some thirty metres by forty. On the far side, the railings were little more than a metre and a half high. The entrance was on the western side, towards Kronobergsgatan and Fridhemsplan. She saw the team from the other evening paper stop at the cordon. A group of men, all of them in plain clothes, were inside the railings, at the east side of the cemetery. She realized why they were there: that was where the woman's body was.
Annika shivered. She mustn't mess this up, her first decent tip-off of the summer.
Berit and Bertil Strand came up behind her, and at that moment she saw a man open the gate in the railings down by Kronobergsgatan. He was carrying some grey material. Annika gasped. They hadn't covered her up yet!
"Come on, quick!" she called over her shoulder. "We might be able to get a picture from up here."
A policeman appeared on the crown of the hill in front of them. He was rolling out blue and white tape. Annika rushed down towards the railings, and could hear Bertil Strand behind her. Over those last metres before the railings he shrugged off his rucksack and pulled out a Canon with a telephoto lens. The grey sheet was just three metres away as Bertil Strand clicked off a whole series of shots in amongst the bushes. He moved half a metre to his left and took another sequence. The policeman holding the roll of tape shouted something, and the men inside the railings caught sight of them.
"Got it!" Bertil Strand said. "We've got enough pictures to cover the story now."
"Hey, what do you think you're doing?" the policeman with the tape shouted. "We're cordoning off this area."
A man in a Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts was walking towards them inside the cemetery.
"Okay, it's time for you to leave," he said.
Annika looked round, unsure of what to do. Bertil Strand was already heading towards the path that led to Sankt Göransgatan. The policemen in front of her and behind her both looked extremely annoyed. She realized she would have to move, otherwise the police would move her themselves. Instinctively, she shifted sideways to where Bertil Strand had taken his first pictures.
She peered through the black railings, and there was the young woman. Her eyes were staring right into Annika's from a distance of just two metres away. They were clouded and grey. Her head was tilted back, her upper arms were pointing away from her body, and her lower arms sticking up above her head. One hand seemed to have been injured. Her mouth was open in a soundless scream, the lips black-brown. Her hair was moving slightly in the imperceptible breeze. She had a large bruise on her left breast, and the lower portion of her stomach looked eerily green.
Annika absorbed the whole image, crystal clear, just for a moment. The harsh greyness of the stone in the background, the subtle green of the plants, the shadows of the leaves, the dampness and heat, the repulsive smell.
Then the sheet appeared, turning the whole scene grey. They were covering up the railings, not the body.
"Time to go," the policeman with the tape said, putting a hand on her shoulder.
Such a bloody stereotype, Annika found herself thinking as she turned round.
Her mouth was completely dry, and she noticed that everything she heard seemed to come from a long way away. She moved, slightly unsteadily, towards where Berit and Bertil Strand were standing waiting behind the cordon. The photographer looked bored and unhappy, but Berit was almost smiling.
The policeman followed her, with his shoulder rubbing against her back. It had to be very hot having to wear a uniform like that on a day like this, Annika thought.
"Did you see anything?" Berit asked.
Annika nodded, and Berit jotted something down. "Did you manage to ask the detective in the Hawaiian shirt anything?"
Annika shook her head and crept under the length of tape with the obliging help of the policeman.
"That"s a shame. Did he say anything that you happened to overhear?"
"Okay, it's time for you to leave," Annika quoted, and Berit smiled.
"How about you, are you okay?" she asked, and Annika nodded.
"Oh, I'm fine. She might well have been strangled, her eyes were popping out. She must have been trying to scream when she died, her mouth was wide open."
"Maybe someone heard her. We'll talk to the neighbours later. Was she Swedish?"
Annika suddenly felt that she had to sit down.
"I forgot to ask . . ."
Berit smiled again.
"Blonde, dark, young, old?"
"Twenty, tops. Long fair hair. Big breasts. Silicon...
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Book Description Random House, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110552165115
Book Description Random House, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0552165115