The Dying Detective – A Mystery by Leif GW Persson
Leif GW Persson is a writer who has worked as an adviser to the Swedish Ministry of Justice and is Sweden’s most renowned psychological profiler. Also, as a professor at the Swedish National Police Board, he is considered the country’s foremost expert on crime. He brings all of the knowledge and experience to his mystery novel, The Dying Detective. My husband read this book last summer, and loved it. Now that it is out in paperback I have read it and feel the same. The Dying Detective is a great read.
Lars Martin Johansson is a retired police chief, known as “boss” to one and all - a man who “could see around corners”. After three years of retirement he is still in touch with his old colleagues, meeting several, by chance, at Gunter’s, his favourite hot dog stand in Stockholm. They joke a bit while ordering, and they are there to help when Lars Martin Johansson suffers a stroke while eating in his car.
Johansson survives, and while recovering in hospital he is approached by his neurologist, Dr. Ulrike Stenholm, about a murder case from 25 years earlier. The murder victim was a young girl, Yasmine Ermegan, brutally raped and murdered, found buried in the forest, in June 1985. The case was never solved.
Dr. Stenholm relates that her father, a priest, now deceased divulged to her that he was told by an elderly woman, under the seal of confession that she knew who the murderer was. Though the case has passed the statute of limitations it is taken up by Johansson, partly because he feels the case was mishandled from the start by the investigating officer, partly because he cannot stand the fact that the perpetrator was not found and punished, and partly because it gives him something to focus on besides his own sorry state of health.
This crime becomes an unofficial investigation, led by Johansson, involving the assistance of his best friend and former colleague, as well as his personal care worker, and a young man who helps with other duties at home. Johansson is a member of a wealthy family, his brother having built even more wealth, so there is no concern about money. Johansson’s wife, Pia, is a bank executive and though loving she leaves her husband’s day to day care to the others. Johansson himself is not an obedient patient, he is overweight, and he has no intention of sticking with a diet that excludes the foods he loves, or the red wine and vodka he drinks. He attends some of his physiotherapy appointments and gradually becomes more able, but he is often plagued by headaches and shortness of breath.
As the novel progresses the story of the past unwinds. We meet the people who are still alive and are questioned, their stories added to the whole. Some of them carry tremendous guilt for not having told the police all they saw or suspected so many years earlier. We also learn about those who have since died and how they may have been involved.
Eventually Johansson decides he knows who the killer was, that he can prove it, that the case can be solved and concluded – and the perpetrator punished.
What makes this particular book superior to so many other mystery novels is the writer, and the character he has created. Lars Martin Johansson is an intelligent, curmudgeonly man who has little patience with foolishness, and clearly sees through deceit. He may not be willing to take control of his own health, but he certainly takes control of the people he is working with, and those he is investigating. It is a novel that questions the way men think about women – especially men who abuse women. The observations of the characters, and situations in which they are found, are smart and revealing. The Dying Detective was a pleasure to read, and a really terrific story.