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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Sword of Justice

Leif GW Persson

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To purchase The Sword of Justice

Title: The Sword of Justice
Author: Leif GW Persson
Genre: Novel
Written: 2013 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 709 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: The Sword of Justice - US
The Sword of Justice - UK
The Sword of Justice - Canada
La véritable histoire du nez de Pinocchio - France
Der glückliche Lügner - Deutschland
La vera storia del naso di Pinocchio - Italia
La verdadera historia de la nariz de Pinocho - España
  • Swedish title: Den sanna historien om Pinocchios näsa
  • Translated by Neil Smith

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Our Assessment:

B : solid heap of a police procedural

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Aftonbladet . 1/10/2013 A.C.Altstadt
l'Humanité . 14/12/2017 Roger Martin
Svenska Dagbladet . 30/9/2013 Paulina Helgeson

  From the Reviews:
  • "Både Bäckström och Persson är alltså som vanligt. Tonen är syrlig, distanserad och torr, medan läsarens snålvatten rinner till av de detaljerade matorgierna och intresset väcks av de sidospår som stagar upp berättelsen i mer redogörande partier. Perssons standarduttryck känns igen; ofta undrar människor vad fan det är som händer och det gör jag också !" - Ann Charlott Altstadt, Aftonbladet

  • "Bäckström est un Ubu suédois. Le monde qui l’entoure a déteint sur lui. Ou le contraire. Un roman décapant. Mieux, « hénaurme »." - Roger Martin, l'Humanité

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:

       The Sword of Justice is the third of Leif GW Persson's Evert Bäckström-novels (though the character also figures, in smaller roles, in several other of his novels). The Detective Superintendent is sitting pretty and doing well as head of the serious crime unit in the Western District; he's in a position of authority where he doesn't have to answer to many higher-ups, while he can delegate as he wishes -- and slip out of the office more or less as he pleases. He must be doing something right, as he has an impressive track record, too: as his current superior, Anna Holt, points out, in the four years he's worked for her: "he's been head of the preliminary investigation in twelve murder cases, and he's cleared up eleven of them". Another high-ranking colleague gives the Chief Prosecutor who gets assigned to the case under investigation here the quick low-down, too:

"This time we've wheeled out the really heavy artillery."
     "Who's that then ?"
     "Our very own Evert Bäckström. It's high time that you got to meet the man, the myth, the legend, even if I'm always a bit dubious about the first part of that description."
     "What's he like?"
     "You can probably expect a fair bit of bullshit"
       Bäckström likes his comfort and routines: good food, plentiful alcohol, sexual release, and sufficient rest- and sleep-time, and he does his best to see that he can fit in all of those in his daily schedule, without getting too bothered by the minutiæ of actual work. This case, however, is one he can throw himself into wholeheartedly. He doesn't even mind being woken up at 5:00 AM with a call from the duty officer informing him of the murder. Bäckström observes that if he's getting a call at the ungodly hour: "it's either the king or the prime minister", but the duty officer tells him it's even better than that -- and Bäckström has to agree: the victim is lawyer Thomas Eriksson, and hearing that Bäckström has to admit: "This is the best day of my life".
       It's an odd murder scene that Bäckström eventually gets to -- Persson takes his time unfolding his stories, and after this opening preview goes on to recount events of the week leading up to the murder; it's a hundred pages before we're at the actual scene. Eriksson was found dead in his luxurious home, his head repeatedly smashed in -- though, oddly, there's no blood splatter around the body --, and two bullet holes in the room; Eriksson's dog is also found dead -- though it becomes evident that, confusingly, the dog was killed several hours after the lawyer.
       Two incidents reported to the police earlier seem unconnected to the murder, but keep cropping up as the investigation proceeds. One involved an assault on one Hans Ulrik von Comer that occurred near the royal palace -- the man beaten by what turned out to be an auction catalogue, and refusing to press charges. Von Comer's proximity and connections to the royal household make this case also of interest to the Security Police, the department charged with watching out for the royal court and surroundings.
       Boxes of something were removed from Eriksson's house the night of the murder -- artwork, mostly Russian icons -- and these would seem to figure in the crime -- but it is Eriksson's dubious client-list that would seem to suggest the most obvious suspects. Among the artwork is also a music box of curious provenance -- with a Pinocchio-figure, whose nose actually grows, and crafted by Fabergé -- an appropriate piece in a novel full of liars.
       Quite soon suspects can be identified as having been on the scene -- but they have alibis for the time of the murder. The connection to von Comer also becomes clearer -- yet the circumstances of the crime less so. Bäckström remains unconcerned, more interested in profiting off the case in other ways, including in remuneratively leaking information to the press -- though the potentially biggest payoff involves that music box which, it turns out, is a very, very valuable piece which seems to have been conveniently overlooked by various parties in the wake of the murder. Nevertheless, his method also seems to work as far as the crime-solving goes: Perssson's elaborate police procedural gets knottier and knottier before the strings are finally tugged at and everything resolves itself with surprising (and in some ways anti-climactic) ease, with Bäckström getting several of the essential pieces in place: as he tells his colleagues: "You just need to do as I tell you. That's really all there is to it. Is that really so hard to understand ?" Surprisingly, he's not just blowing smoke.
       Along the way, Bäckström indulges in his usual excesses, of food and drink and sex. He also has to deal with a house pet that was an impulse buy -- after the death of his beloved goldfish -- that went very wrong, a parrot he does his best to rid himself of (and whose fate does play a minor role in the story as well). If ultimately too clever by half as far as his efforts at personal enrichment go, he's pulled it off again; there's a bit of deserved comeuppance as well, but on the whole he comes out of it smelling like roses, yet again.
       The case involves a large number of police officers and departments, and a variety of clues and leads, with Bäckström juggling who and what he needs as he sees fit. There are other strong figures who move things on well, including the prosecutor assigned to the case and Detective Inspector Annika Carlsson, one of the few who can both work with and handle Bäckström. Various threads, from potential animal rights abuse to a taxi driver eye witness who also wants to profit from what he saw, also run through the story, along with the history of the various pieces of art that are involved in the case. As usual, Persson adeptly weaves a police procedural that's strong on process even as the resolution -- as often in real life -- isn't nearly as spectacular as the circumstances long suggested. Bäckström's leisurely attitude and pace make an entertaining contrast to the police work, too; as the general director notes in conclusion:
Don't let's underestimate Superintendent Bäckström. If you were to ask me for my personal opinion, I might even concede that the man has a certain entertainment value.
       So he does, and Persson puts it to quite good use. If overall a bit pedestrian, with rather much stuffed in, The Sword of Justice is a perfectly fine and quite entertaining pass-time police procedural, with some genuinely clever parts.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 July 2021

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The Sword of Justice: Reviews: Leif GW Persson: Other books by Leif GW Persson under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swedish author Leif GW Persson was born in 1945.

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© 2021 the complete review

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