Joakim Zander returns again with another convoluted thriller involving former EU Parliament staffer Klara Walldeen, now a research fellow based in London.
Klara first made her appearance in The Swimmer, in which she was drawn into a scandal involving American private security contractors in the Middle East. We learnt about who her father was, and his role in it. Lobbyist George Loow also returns in Zander's latest novel, The Brother after almost getting killed by the Americans mentioned above. This time, he is hired by a front company for the Russian government, who is keen to take on contracts in Europe if the security and police services in EU member states are ever privatised. Part of their plan involves paying thugs to riot in various cities, including Stockholm, home to many Arab immigrants such as Yasmine Ajam and her brother Fadi.
Highly realistic: The Brother (released in the United States as The Believer) by Swede Joakim Zander, the second featuring former EU bureaucrat Klara Walldeen.
Four years ago, Yasmine had left Stockholm and her family behind for New York after Fadi and his friends broke into a recording studio owned by a close friend of Yasmine. Fadi, meanwhile, was radicalised by an Islamist group and went to Syria to partake in the civil war, where he was supposedly killed in action. However, rumours of his re-appearance in Stockholm amidst the riots make Yasmine return home, where she must confront the past as well as a brutal and uncertain future. She crosses paths with Loow and Klara, both of whom are also in Stockholm for a major conference on national security. Klara and Yasmine are unwittingly drawn into the sinister game that Loow's clients are playing, and only Klara's lawyer friend Gabriella can save Fadi's life and stop the consequences from turning deadly.
The main wow factor in The Brother has to be its high degree of social realism, as it takes inspiration from current events around the globe, such as the Syrian civil war and Russo-Swedish tensions in the Baltic Sea, that are still ongoing. It is inevitable that Zander will always be compared to the maestro Stieg Larsson in that department, as the latter deployed the element of realism really well in the Millennium series. That being said, it is probably the socio-political climate in Nordic countries that allow such elements to be woven into the narrative so smoothly. Both Zander and Larsson seem to hint that there are dodgy elements in the highest echelons of the Swedish Security and Intelligence Service (SaPo) in their books. Zander paints a picture of Stockholm that is dystopian yet alluring. He also hints at the possibility that the antifascist demonstrations that have taken place across much of the Western world may have been funded by shady interests.
It remains to be seen if Zander may be writing an entire series about Klara Walldeen in the same way Tom Clancy wrote the Ryanverse novels. For all we know, Zander could be the European version of Clancy.