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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Easy Money

by
Jens Lapidus


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Easy Money



Title: Easy Money
Author: Jens Lapidus
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 469 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: Easy Money - US
Easy Money - UK
Easy Money - Canada
Easy Money - India
Stockholm Noir: L'argent facile - France
Spür die Angst - Deutschland
La traiettoria della neve - Italia
Dinero fácil - España
  • Swedish title: Snabba cash
  • Translated by Astri von Arbin Ahlander
  • Easy Money was made into a film in 2010, directed by Daniel Espinosa

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Our Assessment:

B- : moderately intriguing look at the criminal classes in Sweden, though a mess of a novel

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 10/2/2012 John O'Connell
The Independent . 29/2/2012 Barry Forshaw
Irish Times . 7/1/2012 Declan Hughes
Publishers Weekly . 5/9/2011 .
Svenska Dagbladet . 24/8/2006 Johan Lundberg
The Washington Times . 1/6/2012 Joseph C. Goulden


  From the Reviews:
  • "The discrepancy between the ordered, formal Swedish criminal justice system as Lapidus portrays it and criminals so Americanised they seem to inhabit, well, America, takes some adjusting to. Keep at it, though -- there's much to enjoy." - John O'Connell, The Guardian

  • "Lapidus paints a more cosmopolitan canvas than other writers -- not to mention employing a far grimmer and more nihilistic use of the genre, with nary a comforting Swedish copper in sight. (...) The other element that shows Lapidus treading a different path from most Scandinavian contemporaries is the flavoursome use of language. Easy Money (translated by Astri von Arbin Ahlander) is written in an in-your-face combination of street argot and new word coinages." - Barry Forshaw, The Independent

  • "Pronouns, verbs, articles: where ? Story: excellent. Style: bad. I bet the movie is terrific." - Declan Hughes, Irish Times

  • "This sprawling novel, full of offensive language, exposes moral degradation of every stripe while relentlessly depicting Sweden’s underworld and the reasons it exists and grows." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Lapidus låter olika språk brytas mot varandra: Rinkebysvenska kontra domstolsprotokollens kanslisvenska; kvällstidningsprosa kontra ekonomjargong. Resultatet är stundtals lite svajigt rent språkligt (som när jugoslaviska torpeder hemfaller åt ett alltför litterärt språk), men genomgående extremt spännande. Som jurist besitter Lapidus uppenbarligen gedigna kunskaper om dagens svenska brottslighet, vilket i detta sammanhang kommer väl till pass." - Johan Lundberg, Svenska Dagbladet

  • "In 469 pages, I did not encounter a single admirable character. Easy Money is raw and dark, with crisp dialogue that shouts authenticity. Be forewarned: Mr. Lapidus does not cater to the squeamish reader. (...) This book shows a side of Sweden you won’t find in the travel guides. But it is a five-punch, five-head-butt read." - Joseph C. Goulden, The Washington Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Easy Money is an attempt at a sweeping look at Sweden's seedy underside. There's Johan Westlund -- JW, as he's known -- an ambitious student whose main ambition is living the high-life:

He was an ordinary citizen, a loser, a tragic Sven. He was a bluff, a fake who was playing a high-stakes double game. He lived the high life with the boyz two to three nights a week and scraped by the rest of the time to make ends meet.
       Playing (and partying) with the equivalent of the local trust-fund kids takes lots of cash, and JW earns it by driving a taxi nights -- until something better comes along, in the form of dealing cocaine to the upper crust that he mixes and mingles with. No wonder he's proud of himself as the cash comes flowing in, seeing himself as:
a social genius. The Talented Mr.Ripley, Swedish style. Fit in with the boyz -- studied the mannerisms of the upper class, played along, laughed at the right beats, volleyed with their slang.
       Then there's Jorge Salinas Barrio, who takes the fall for a big cocaine bust and is sent to prison. He breaks out and has just one thing on his mind: vengeance. And while he gets back to dealing -- a colleague of JW's, now -- in the back of his mind is always: "his hate project. It was both completing and depleting."
       And then there's the old-boys network of Serbian crooks, who dabble in all sorts of criminal activity -- including the apparently lucrative restaurant/bar/club coat-check business (hey, it's Sweden, you make your dirty money where you can ...).
       To humanize all these low-lifes a bit there is, of course, someone they care for: for example, JW can't get his sister out of his mind; she disappeared mysteriously a few years back, leaving few clues behind as to what might have become of her. Jorge has a sister he cares about, too -- pregnant now. And at least one of the Serbs just wants to make things right with his young daughter, leading him to occasionally mull things over like:
What would Lovisa think of him if she ever found out about all this shit he'd done ? Was it possible to be a good father and still break people's fingers ? He should stop.
       Heartwarming stuff .....
       Author Lapidus -- according to the jacket copy: "a criminal defense lawyer who represents some of Sweden's most notorious underworld criminals" -- shows off a lot of insider knowledge: the businesses in which the Swedish gangs -- Serbs ! Hells Angels ! etc. -- earn their dirty money and, for example, (at great length) how that money can be and is laundered. He's a bit fuzzier about the sex crimes, which are also an important part of the novel, but it's the drug dealing that is the heart of it all. Lapidus does have some neat descriptions of how parts of the trade work -- especially the major deal that goes down at the end -- and he's good with various details, from jail (and jail breaks) to organizational hierarchies. But it also feels a bit forced and random, as he shoves so many different story-lines (and crimes) into this novel -- which nevertheless, at nearly five hundred pages, winds up being quite long-winded.
       There's something to be said for the crime thriller as police procedural, following the investigation (and usually focused on some lone-wolf detective leading the way). That is not the approach Lapidus chooses: indeed, Easy Money basically ignores law enforcement -- yeah, the cops show up and chase people every now and then, but they're anonymous and incidental figures -- and only occasionally relies on a few court transcripts and other documents to fill in background information. The alternative approach -- the narrative focused on a criminal figure and his or her dirty doings -- also has something going for it, but Lapidus doesn't choose that route either: instead, he has three main threads of a story -- JW's rise and fall, Jorge's 'hate project', and the Serbs' criminal activity -- and so as a whole the novel remains rather threadbare. The different storylines do overlap (it's Sweden, it's a tiny country, with a tiny criminal class, everything is bound to be hopelessly intertwined) -- ridiculously, by the end -- but the absence of any focus -- and, more importantly, anyone to root for -- make for a thriller that is only very limitedly gripping. The fact that almost everyone is so terribly unsympathetic -- JW is a weasely piece of shit, the Serbs are ... well, all the worst things you'd expect from boys who fought side by side with Arkan, back in the day and the homeland ...., and only Jorge has any redeeming qualities -- doesn't help either.
       Lapidus seems to have wanted to write a panoramic novel of Sweden's dirty underside. He does reveal a great deal of it, but he also overextends himself, losing himself -- or rather: any larger narrative -- in detail. Some of these episodes are entertaining, but too much remains superficial: Lapidus can explain the details of setting up off-shore companies to launder money, but everything that goes into JW and Jorge's day-to-day drug trading remains almost completely opaque. Like JW, Lapidus also seems to value style over substance: the novel is written in an often lively style -- but that often seems to be done just for the sake of ... liveliness. Okay, he's a novice author, trying to get the hang of this writing thing, and admirably open to experimenting -- and it does work, for the occasional stretch. But over the long haul Easy Money is one very long haul.
       The predictable story of what happened to JW's sister, a storyline that keeps bobbing up throughout the novel and that is resolved completely unsurprisingly at its conclusion, is typical for how Lapidus mishandles his often good material: he just doesn't know what to do with it, but keeps dragging it along and bringing it up because he feels he needs to use it. And the whole novel is packed with these stories, anecdotes, and insights that he feels obligated to use but which wind up just feeling like excess stuffing, making for a queasily bloated book.
       The occasional longueurs notwithstanding, Easy Money is a decent, even gripping read much of the time; it just isn't consistently so, and is terribly ill-conceived as a novel. (Terrifyingly, it's also just the first in a trilogy .....)

- M.A.Orthofer, 15 April 2012

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Links:

Easy Money: Reviews: Easy Money - the film: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swedish author Jens Lapidus is also an attorney. He was born in 1974.

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© 2012 the complete review

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