A recent, very interesting symposium on European Crime fiction in Manchester has led me to the works of Swedish writer Arne Dahl. My colleague Kerstin Bergman (Lund University) gave a great paper on his latest novel Viskleken (Chinese Whispers), which appears to be the first in a new breed of ‘Eurocrime’ fiction. Its investigators are members of a Europol unit drawn from a number of European countries, and are tasked with solving a set of interlocking international crimes.
Here’s some publicity blurb from the Salomonsson Agency website to give you a flavour:
‘A new and top-secret Operative Unit of Europol has just been established. Its members call it the Op Cop group and Police Superintendent Paul Hjelm from Sweden is at the helm. Based in The Hague with connections and national units spread all over Europe, its mandate is to fight international crime. But although information about the Op Cop group is strictly confidential, there has been a leak. The body of a dead woman is found in a London park arranged in a bizarre position, and inside the body a message addressed to “The Operative Unit, Europol” is discovered. At the same time, a furniture manufacturer in Stockholm is doing business with the infamous Calabrian mafia; an American investment bank is moving unfathomable sums of money; the workers in a Chinese furniture factory are growing ill; and during a G20 summit in London, a dying man whispers a strange phrase in Arto Söderstedt’s ear. Somehow, it’s all connected. The Op Cop group heads out into a world where the Internet, social media, and the fluidity of national borders has globalized crime. The human greed, corruption and craving for power is the same. It has just found a larger arena’.
The Salomonsson site also tells us that Chinese Whispers is the first in an Op Cop / Europol quartet, that it received the ‘Best Swedish Crime Novel’ award in 2011, and was shortlisted for the ‘Best Crime Novel of the Year’ award by the Danish Academy of Crime Writers in 2012.
If like me you’re now desperate to read the novel, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that it’s out in Swedish, Danish, German and Dutch, so if you speak any of those four languages you can tuck right in. The bad news is that it’s not yet available in English, and may not be for a long, long time.
The lack of an English-language translation is something that I find very curious, given Dahl’s huge commercial and critical success in Scandinavia and Germany. The author himself has given publishers every encouragement, providing extensive information about his works in English, such as the 10 novels of his debut ‘Intercrime’ series. The first of these was published in 1999, but only recently appeared as Misterioso in the US (see reviews at Petrona and Reactions to Reading), and will be published in the UK this summer as The Blinded Man. The second in the series, Bad Blood, will follow in summer 2013.
All credit to Harvill Secker crime editor Alison Hennessey for picking up the series, but does this mean that we’ll need to wait a decade before we see Chinese Whispers out in English translation? The Europol/Op Cop series follows on from the Intercrime novels, and features some of the same investigators, such as Paul Hjelm. If we plod through all the Intercrime novels in order, year by year, we’re in for a very long wait…
Perhaps another option would be to go ahead and publish Chinese Whispers straight away. I’d be very open to the latter course of action (hint hint), given the novel’s groundbreaking depiction of a European crime-fighting team grappling with globalised crime. Europol, incidentally, is a very real organisation, and its website makes for fascinating reading in its own right.