REVIEW: The Swimmer by Joakim Zander

The Swimmer Book Cover The Swimmer
Joakim Zander
Thriller
432

Klara Walldeen, orphaned as a child and brought up by her grandparents on a remote Swedish archipelago, is now a political aide in Brussels. And she has just seen something she shouldn’t: something people will kill to keep hidden.

On the other side of the world, an old spy hides from his past. Once, he was a man of action: so dedicated to the cause that he abandoned his baby daughter to keep his cover. Now the only thing he lives for is swimming in the local pool.

Then, on Christmas eve, Klara is thrown into a terrifying chase through Europe. Only the Swimmer can save her. But time is running out...

If I could sum up The Swimmer by Joakim Zander in a single word, it would be ‘intriguing’. For starters, the book was fast paced and dramatic, with mysterious phone calls and bodies piling up, but it wasn’t until three quarters of the way through the book that the reader really knows what the bad guys so desperately want. Then, there was a protagonist who’s name is never revealed, who is nothing if not mysterious. Plus, with several main characters, the book is written as though one is going to be the central character, only for there to be a sudden about-face midway through the novel.

While such a slow reveal of crucial details can be incredibly frustrating in a book, in this instance it worked. Zander’s narrative was so well written that it didn’t matter. In fact, it added to the story. The characters themselves had no idea what they had stumbled into, and rather than the reader having all of the facts while the characters struggled to catch up, I felt like I was uncovering the information with them, and was very invested in the journey.

I also appreciated the ‘real-life’ aspects of the story, that tied into the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the role of government organisations like the CIA. With a portion of the book written from the perspective of a disillusioned career spy, the insights offered into the ‘grey areas’ of espionage were rather fascinating. The unusual setting, in Sweden and Brussels, was an additional bonus – the Swedish archipelagos were a unique and fascinating backdrop.

This book was an interesting look at how the actions of one person can create ripples that span not only distance, but time. One split second can change everything. Zander did a great job of describing the effects of those ripples and tying together the strands of the characters’ lives. I’d definitely recommend this book to lovers of political thrillers.

I received a copy of The Swimmer by Joakim Zander from the lovely Trish at TLC Tours, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

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REVIEW: ‘Life is Swede’ by Claire Duffy

Life is Swede Book Cover Life is Swede
Claire Duffy
Travel Fiction / Thriller
234

Regan moves halfway across the world to start a new life with holiday fling Anders, and blogs daily about her ups and downs settling into Stockholm and struggles to connect with Anders' tight knit group of friends. 

When one of them is found dead during a weekend away in a remote cabin, the police quickly zero in on Anders as the killer. Regan sets out to clear his name, and details her investigation for her fascinated readers - unaware that the killer is reading her blog, and watching her every move. 

I received a copy of Life is Swede by Claire Duffy in exchange for a review, and my honest opinion.

If readers picked this book up without reading the blurb, they could be forgiven for thinking that Life is Swede was expat-fiction. In fact, it isn’t until halfway through the novel that the psychological thriller aspect came into play. However, weirdly, it worked!

Written in blog post form, and in part (the non-murder part!) derived from Duffy’s own experiences as an American expat living in Sweden, the reader gets an immediate insight into Regan’s thoughts. Her blog also evolves with her as the story progresses; gradually the anonymity she initially tried for falls away and nicknames give way to real ones. I found Regan’s introspection very interesting; she often looks back over what she has blogged, and considers how her view of a situation at the time influenced her perceptions of people she met.

Having experienced Sweden myself, I found myself smiling as I recognised the thought that the Swedish people are insanely beautiful – there really are a huge number of tall, blue-eyed, blonde people.

Just as Regan begins to settle into Swedish life, people start dying, and her boyfriend is arrested. Suddenly everyone is under suspicion.

Duffy kept me guessing until the very end; I wasn’t sure who the bad guy was (although I had my suspicions), and I definitely didn’t expect the twist that she threw in at the very end – Duffy kept it fresh!

This was a great first novel. I’m excited to see what Duffy comes up with next (she’s currently releasing another psychological thriller in parts, called Identity). In the meantime, she can be found blogging over at The Grass is Dancing!

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