Bad Blood by Arne Dahl

bad bloodBe careful what you wish for…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Paul Hjelm and the team have had very little to do since they wound up their last case in The Blinded Man. ‘Violent crimes with an international character’ seem to be in short supply. And Paul is bored…

‘What they needed was a robust serial killer, of a robust, international character, thought Paul Hjelm as he slid back into his orgy of self-pity.’

Be careful what you wish for! Even as Paul thinks this, a serial killer is on his way to Sweden – a killer who tortures his victims in the cruellest ways – a killer so professional he has eluded the FBI for decades. But why is he coming to Sweden? And is this killer more than just your ‘ordinary’ psychopath?

In this second instalment of the Intercrime series, Dahl lets us see how the team members have developed since their experiences the year before. Although Paul is still the main character, we find out more about the lives of the others, particularly Nyberg and Norlander, and this adds an extra layer of interest to the book. Paul himself, happily, is suffering much less from the existential angst that afflicted him so much in the last book. Back with his wife, he still has feelings for the enigmatic Kerstin Holm though their relationship has changed. Kerstin is a much more rounded character here – in the last book she really seemed only to be there to allow Paul to fantasise about her, but in this one she becomes a real person.

Arne Dahl
Arne Dahl

At first this looked as if it was going to be a fairly straightforward manhunt for a serial killer book, but when Paul and Kersten go to America to liaise with the FBI, it becomes obvious there are some strange and unexpected things about this killer. Firstly, the method he uses was one developed during the Vietnam war and known to very few people. Secondly the killer had stopped fifteen years before, but has now started up again – the murder method remains the same but the type of victim has changed. And thirdly, the FBI’s main suspect is dead. And yet the obvious explanation of copycat killings doesn’t fit either since there are aspects to the crimes that a copycat couldn’t have known. As the plot progresses, it become increasingly dark and complex, raising some uncomfortable questions of personal and state ethics.

I found this book to be both less complicated but deeper than The Blinded Man, and although there is some graphic violence right from the start, it’s not the main focus. The translation by Rachel Willson-Broyles is fine, although as in the first book sometimes the humour doesn’t travel very well. The plotting is very good, stretching but not breaking credibility, and the characterisation is much stronger and less stereotyped in this novel than the last. Recommended – and I look forward to reading the next in the series.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher.

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14 thoughts on “Bad Blood by Arne Dahl

  1. What a coincidence I read this yesterday – review to be posted in a week or so…i can see how this can easily translate to the small screen ( BBC4 I think) I thought this was a slow burn as a crime story but was excellent at bringing up the issue of manipulation.


    • Funnily enough, I couldn’t get into the TV series at all. I stuck with it through The Blinded Man and the first episode of this one, but then abandoned it. They seemed to concentrate too much on the violence, somehow – there is violence in the book, but I don’t think Dahl dwells on in quite the way the TV series did. The fact that they changed Hultin into a woman seemed a bit odd too…

      I’ll look forward to reading your review.


  2. This writer hasn’t come across my radar so far. I’m glad you compliment the translator. It is such an important aspect of foreign fiction and some are much better than others. I’m glad to have a recommendation on that score as well.


    • It’s becoming a more important aspect now that we’re all reading so many books in translation. I like to name them as much as anything else to act as an aide memoire for myself as to whether I liked their translation – they can pretty much make or break a book. In fact, I’ve been mulling over a blogpost on translation for a couple of weeks – a result of reading a spate of translated books recently. When I read IQ84, the third book was by a different translator for some unexplained reason. The differences in style really stood out. And then there was my epic struggle to find a translator who could make Stendhal readable…


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