Stockholm syndrome

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First Posted: 3/26/2013

Sophie Brinkmann lives a seemingly quiet life. A young widower, Sophie divides her time between raising her teenage son, Albert, as a single mother and working as a nurse in a Stockholm hospital. Most of the time Sophie’s life is nothing more than a blank white page, but one stroke of fate is about to change that.

In “The Andalucian Friend” by Alexander Söderberg, readers are introduced to a new Swedish crime series that follows leading lady, Sophie. The work, which is the first for Söderberg, is part one of a trilogy.

As the first installment, readers are introduced to pivotal character, Hector Guzman, who, after a hit-and-run, is brought to the emergency room. Naturally, Sophie comes to his aid. As time advances, Sophie begins to develop feelings for Hector, extending into a welcoming and loving companionship that Hector likewise initiates through flirtation – but not everything is as it seems.

When readers first become acquainted with Sophie, we are given a glimpse of her the night before she meets Hector: “Sophie went on as normal. She cleared the table, tidied up, watched some television, called a friend and talked about nothing — and the evening passed. She went up to bed and tried to read some of the book on her bedside table, about a woman who had found a new life helping the street children of Bucharest. The book was dull; the woman was pretentious and Sophie had nothing in common with her. She closed the book and fell asleep alone in her bed as usual.”

Before Hector, what Sophie failed to recognize was that while she was not like the protagonist, she did share a commonality with the book: her life was just as lackluster. Now, in meeting Hector, there was danger involved as his identity unraveled. His soft exterior masked a brutish interior, one that had no less captured Sophie’s heart.

It is revealed that Hector is the maestro behind a large crime network that orchestrates narcotic and weapon trafficking around the world. As other crime organizations become aware of Hector’s success, many seek to usurp him. The most confident of them all is a repugnant German crime boss who has no reservations when it comes to cruelty. Unfortunately, with Sophie being added to the mix, she soon becomes a target and almost instantaneously her life goes from dull to risky.

Other than Sophie, the work lacks many endearing characters. However, Sophie’s resolute compassion and naivety brings a positive serenity to a world full of darkness, balancing the scale. The unraveling and expansive nature of Söderberg’s first piece of the puzzle that is this series will no doubt grow more compelling in time.