Last Will: A Novel (Annika Bengtzon Series)

 
9781501275548: Last Will: A Novel (Annika Bengtzon Series)

For the first time in her career, investigative reporter Bengtzon is covering the glamorous Nobel Prize Dinner, traditionally held in Stockholm's City Hall. Some of the most notable scholars in the world are in attendance when gunshots suddenly break out. Bodies fall to the floor and Annika catches a glimpse of the suspect as he flees the scene. As the key witness, she is soon caught in the middle of an intricate drama with links to international terrorism, global pharmaceutical corporations, and Alfred Nobel himself. In pursuit of a trained assassin called The Kitten, she learns that in the scientific community, secrets are closely guarded. And some will kill, just to protect them.

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About the Author:

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 in the series.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10

Nobel Day

The woman known as the Kitten felt the weight of the weapon dangling under her right armpit. She tossed the cigarette to the ground, lifted her skirt, and thoroughly crushed the butt with the underside of her high-heeled sandals.

Try to find any DNA on that if you can.

The Nobel festivities had been going on inside the banqueting rooms of the City Hall for three hours and thirty-nine minutes now. The dancing was underway, and she could make out the sound of the music in the chill of the street. The target had left the table down in the Blue Hall and was walking up the flight of steps toward the Golden Hall. The text message she had just received on her cell phone had given her the target’s position, as precisely as possible under the circumstances.

She sighed and recognized how irritated she felt, and gave herself a mental slap. This job required concentration. There was no room for existential worrying or thoughts of alternative careers. This was all about basic survival.

She forced herself to focus on the immediate future, on the sequence of events she had memorized by going over it again and again until she was bored stiff by it, certain that the job would be carried out successfully.

So now she set off with light and measured steps, one two three, the salt and gravel rough under the thin soles of her sandals. The temperature had fallen below zero, forming patches of ice on the ground, a detail she had hoped for but hadn’t been able to take for granted. The cold made her hunched and pale, and was making her eyes water. If they looked red it would be no bad thing.

The police officers in their uniforms and yellow tunics were positioned where they should be, two on each side of the archway that formed the entrance to the Stockholm City Hall. She calibrated her internal resources.

Time for mark number one: pale and beautiful, frozen and cold, cell phone in her hand. Ta dah, showtime!

She stepped into the archway just as a group of happy revelers rolled up from the other direction. The group’s voices jangled in the cold air, their happy laughter echoing. The indirect lighting along the faÇade of the building threw shadows over their cheerful faces.

She looked down and reached the first police officer at the same time as the raucous men started yelling for a taxi. When the cop made an attempt to talk to her she threw out her arms and pretended to slip. The policeman reacted instinctively, the way men do, and he caught her flailing arm in a gentlemanly fashion. She muttered something embarrassed in incomprehensible English, withdrew her cold hand and glided off toward the main entrance, thirty-three measured steps.

So fucking easy, she thought. This is beneath my dignity.

The flagged courtyard of the City Hall was full of limousines with tinted glass, and she spotted the security guards from the corner of her eye. People were streaming out of the building, breath pluming from their mouths in cones. Straight ahead, beyond the cars and the garden, lay the glittering black waters of Lake MÄlaren.

She skipped up to mark number two: the entrance to the Blue Hall. An elderly man was blocking the doorway and she had to stop. The man stood to one side to let out a group of elderly women who were following him, and she had to bite her tongue and stand there shivering in the cold while the old fossils creaked out into the courtyard. One intoxicated gentleman said something impertinent as she slipped into the cloakroom with her cell phone in her hand but she ignored him, just left him in her wake and made it to mark number three.

Annika Bengtzon stood up from table number fifty as her dinner partner, the managing editor of the journal Science, held her chair for her. She noticed that her legs were a bit unsteady. Her shawl was on the point of sliding down onto the floor and she clutched it more tightly round her waist. There were so many people, so many swirling colors everywhere. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy hurry past her table. God, he was handsome.

“It’s been a pleasure,” the editor said, kissing her hand before vanishing into the crowd. Annika smiled politely. Maybe he had been a bit upset when she turned down his invitation to dance.

She fiddled with her shawl and checked the time. She didn’t have to get back to the newsroom just yet. Anders Wall, the financier, slid past with his wife, as the head of Swedish Television moved in the opposite direction.

Then she felt someone stop right behind her, and she looked round to see Bosse, the reporter for the other main evening paper.

“How many stars do you give the starter?” he said quietly with his lips far too close to her ear.

“Four skulls and crossbones,” Annika said, standing quite still, her bare shoulder against the front of his jacket. “How many points does Princess Madeleine’s neckline get?”

“Two melons,” Bosse said. “The speech by the guy who got the prize for medicine?”

“Eight sleeping pills ...”

“May I?”

He bowed dramatically. Annika looked round quickly to make sure the man from Science was nowhere nearby. Then she nodded. She quickly pushed her elegant evening bag inside her larger bag and hoisted it onto her shoulder.

Her grandmother’s best shawl was draped over her lower arms, and as Annika’s skirt crunched, Bosse took her hand and led her toward the steps leading to the Golden Hall. They sailed between the tables, between the flowers and crystal glasses. Annika had skipped most of the wine, just tasting it so she could report on it (which was frankly an insult to the readers, seeing as she didn’t know a thing about wine). Even so, she still felt a bit giddy, a bit too light on her feet. She took Bosse’s arm as they started to ascend the staircase, holding up her skirt with her other hand.

“I’m going to trip,” she said. “I’ll fall on my ass and roll all the way down and knock the legs out from under some important politician.”

“No one has ever fallen down these stairs,” Bosse said. “When they were building it the architect, Ragnar Östberg, made his wife walk up and down it in an evening gown for a whole week, while he adjusted the steps to make sure you could glide up and down and never fall. The staircase has worked beautifully ever since, but his wife snapped and demanded a divorce.”

Annika laughed.

Soon she would have to leave the party and go write it up back in the newsroom. Soon the spell would be broken, soon her flowing long dress would turn into a top from H&M and a polyester skirt with enough static electricity for it to do a passable job as a vacuum cleaner.

“It’s completely crazy, really, being part of something like this,” she said.

Bosse put his hand on her arm and guided her up the last steps the same way the winner of the chemistry prize had just done with the queen.

They emerged onto the long balcony overlooking the Blue Hall, then had to fight their way through the crowd surrounding a drinks table just outside the doors to the Golden Hall.

“One for the road?” Bosse asked, and she shook her head.

“One dance,” she said, “then I have to go.”

They stepped into the Golden Hall, the fantastic banqueting hall whose walls were covered with artworks and mosaics made with real gold. The orchestra was playing but Annika couldn’t hear the music, it was all just a tapestry of sound. All that mattered was that she was here and Bosse had his arm round her back and she was spinning round and round, the golden mosaics swirling.

The vaulted ceiling, limestone floors: the woman known as the Kitten was inside the building itself. Silk crunched and stretched across full stomachs, cravats rubbed against red necks. She slid unnoticed among the other evening gowns, no need to look around. In recent months she had been on a number of guided tours, in three different languages, through the halls and galleries of the City Hall. She had taken pictures and carefully studied the whole arena, she had been on test runs, even test slips, and she knew the exact length of her stride and where she could catch her breath.

It was a pretty impressive building, she had to admit. The architecture was the best thing about this job.

Twelve steps into the Blue Hall.

She stopped under the six-pointed stars of the pillared walkway and collected herself before entering the dizzying space of the hall, 1,526 slightly asymmetrical square meters, the aftermath of the meal, people crowding onto the marble floor, the light sparkling from thousands of glasses. The royal couple were gone, and the security staff had of course gone with them. She allowed herself a brief moment of contemplation, and realized that she would rather have taken part in the dinner than have to do her job. The theme of the meal had been Nordic winds, which actually sounded rather disgusting, but she liked the way it had all been set out.

Damn, she thought, I really have to come up with some other profession.

Oh well. Mark number four. Turn right, narrow shoulders, a quick glance.

She stepped out from the paired granite pillars and set off toward the staircase, ten steps in her high heels. She could hear the music from the Golden Hall clearly now.

A moment later a man was standing in front of her saying something incomprehensible. She stopped and took a step to the side, and then another. The bastard wasn’t letting her through, and she was forced to push her way past him and hurried up the forty-two steps, each one thirteen centimeters high, thirty-nine centimeters across.

Then the long balcony of the Blue Hall, seven doorways into the Golden Hall, seven doorways leading to the great works of art in there, The Queen of Lake MÄlaren and Saint Erik.

She skipped on, pushin...

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Book Description BRILLIANCE AUDIO, 2015. CD-Audio. Book Condition: New. Unabridged. Language: English . Brand New. For the first time in her career, investigative reporter Bengtzon is covering the glamorous Nobel Prize Dinner, traditionally held in Stockholm s City Hall. Some of the most notable scholars in the world are in attendance when gunshots suddenly break out. Bodies fall to the floor and Annika catches a glimpse of the suspect as he flees the scene. As the key witness, she is soon caught in the middle of an intricate drama with links to international terrorism, global pharmaceutical corporations, and Alfred Nobel himself. In pursuit of a trained assassin called The Kitten, she learns that in the scientific community, secrets are closely guarded. And some will kill, just to protect them. Bookseller Inventory # BRI9781501275548

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Book Description BRILLIANCE AUDIO, 2015. CD-Audio. Book Condition: New. Unabridged. Language: English . Brand New. For the first time in her career, investigative reporter Bengtzon is covering the glamorous Nobel Prize Dinner, traditionally held in Stockholm s City Hall. Some of the most notable scholars in the world are in attendance when gunshots suddenly break out. Bodies fall to the floor and Annika catches a glimpse of the suspect as he flees the scene. As the key witness, she is soon caught in the middle of an intricate drama with links to international terrorism, global pharmaceutical corporations, and Alfred Nobel himself. In pursuit of a trained assassin called The Kitten, she learns that in the scientific community, secrets are closely guarded. And some will kill, just to protect them. Bookseller Inventory # BRI9781501275548

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