About the Book

Title Page


Monday, 13 May

Tuesday, 14 May

Wednesday, 15 May

Thursday, 16 May

Friday, 17 May


Author’s Acknowledgements

About the Author

Also by Liza Marklund


About the Author

Liza Marklund’s crime novels featuring the relentless reporter Annika Bengtzon instantly became an international hit, and Marklund’s books have sold over 15 million copies in 30 languages to date. She has achieved the unique feat of being a number one bestseller in all five Nordic countries, as well as the USA.

She has been awarded numerous prizes, including the inaugural Petrona award for best Scandinavian crime novel of the year 2013 for Last Will, as well as a nomination for the Glass Key for best Scandinavian crime novel.

Visit her website at

Neil Smith studied Scandinavian Studies at University College London, and lived in Stockholm for several years. He now lives in Norfolk.

About the Book

A family torn apart. Another family learning how to live together.

Ingemar Lerberg has it all: he’s a successful businessman, politician, husband and father. Then he is brutally beaten and left for dead. His wife, Nora, is missing. With no alternative, his children are taken into care. In one night, a family has been ripped apart.

Journalist Annika Bengtzon is covering the case. As she delves into the horrifying details of this family’s fate, she grapples too with the change in her own. With her new boyfriend she must patch together a home for their children.

Family matters above all else. But behind the scenes, darkness lies.

Also by Liza Marklund










By Liza Marklund and James Patterson





Human beings can only comprehend a certain level of pain. Then they pass out. Their consciousness protests, like the trip-switch of an overloaded electrical circuit.

Staying on the right side of that boundary required sensitivity and judgement.

The man with the hammer looked at the person on the bed with stoical resignation. ‘It’s your decision,’ he said. ‘We can stop whenever you want.’

There was no response, but the man was in no doubt. The words had been understood. This particular client (he always thought of them like that, as clients he’d been asked to work with) was a rather impressive example of Homo sapiens: well-developed musculature, healthy skin-tone, a fairly thin layer of subcutaneous fat. And driven by ideology and conviction, a sure indication that the job was likely to be of the more complicated sort. The struggling and squirming had stopped now, and the individual was lying quietly on the bed in his trousers and shirt. The duct tape round his wrists and ankles was no longer needed; only the piece over his mouth remained.

The man looked at his twin brother, his mirror-image on the other side of the bed, and they nodded to each other. His brother bent down over the toolbox and made his selection, then took out an awl with his gloved hand. The man with the hammer nodded approval at his choice.

He shut his eyes briefly to focus on his breathing and raise his awareness of the moment, of being in the here and now, in his own body, the way the soles of his feet felt against his rubber-soled shoes, the weight of the tool in his hand.

For a fleeting but intense moment he missed his Magnum.

They had actually moved away from using firearms as tools. They made such a terrible noise, even with silencers, and he wasn’t thinking primarily about the damage they had done to their hearing. (Wearing ear-defenders had been one option, but that idea had been rejected as lacking subtlety.) The public tended to react badly to the sight of firearms, but ropes and toolboxes were completely unobtrusive.

He realized that his mind was wandering, and brought it firmly but gently back to focus on his breathing again. Then he opened his eyes and looked at the client. ‘I’m going to give you an opportunity to answer now,’ he said softly. ‘If you shout or do anything silly, it will hurt.’

The client didn’t answer. His eyes were closed and he was breathing through his nose in a laboured, rasping way.

He pulled the duct tape back a few centimetres, just enough to uncover the corner of the man’s mouth. ‘Are you ready?’ he asked. ‘All the unpleasantness can stop here.’

He drew the tape back a little further.

The man breathed in through his mouth, and there was a gurgling sound in his throat. He coughed, spraying saliva.

He leaned close to the client’s ear, his voice a silky whisper. ‘Where is she?’

The client’s breathing was irregular, and his eyes were still closed. But the question had gone in: the movement of his eyes under the lids became more rapid and his body tensed.

The man leaned even further forward. ‘What did you say?’ he whispered. ‘I didn’t quite hear you …’

The client attempted to speak, and his Adam’s apple bobbed. The sounds that emerged were more gasps than words. ‘Don’t … know …’

The man sighed, and saw his mirror-image do the same. ‘Such a shame,’ he said, replacing the duct tape. The underside was wet with saliva and wouldn’t stick properly: next time they’d have to replace it with a fresh piece. ‘Well, let’s see how things look under this shirt,’ he said, undoing the buttons once more.

Two tears appeared below the client’s closed eyelids.

‘Try not to cry,’ the mirror-image said. ‘The nasal passages swell up, making it hard to breathe.’

He could see the client struggling to do as they said: he really did want to be amenable. That was a good sign. Carefully he felt the client’s ribs, and the man groaned. The bruising had crept down the side of his torso towards his navel, and he could feel the fractures clearly beneath the skin.

‘Let’s take number three,’ he said, and raised the hammer. His mirror-image pulled one of the client’s eyelids open, and his pupil contracted as the light hit his eye. Good: the reflexes were working. He felt with his fingers across the client’s ribcage, carefully took aim, then administered a firm and precisely measured blow with the hammer. The rib broke with a dull, muffled click, and the body shook in a brief convulsion. The man’s breathing became quicker and shallower: he was on the verge of losing consciousness again.

His twin brother leaned over the client. ‘You just have to tell us. Then it will be over.’

His eyes rolled back until only the whites were visible.

His brother took a firmer grip on the awl.

‘Where is Nora?’


We were standing under one of the apple trees in the garden. It was spring and the tree was in full blossom – I remember the sound of bumble-bees among the petals, the sun’s flickering light through the crown. It had rained that morning; glistening drops still clung to the bark and in the forks of the branches. I was holding my little boy in my arms – he was five days old, Isak, my first. I’d wrapped a blanket round him to keep the wind off, and Ingemar was holding me – he was holding us both. I remember how soft my son felt against my cheek, the way he smelt, my husband’s arms round my shoulders. We stood there close together, the three of us, a unit that was greater than everything else.

That memory often comes back to me. When I need to conjure up an image of perfect happiness, that’s the feeling that comes back to me, that moment with Isak and Ingemar under the apple tree: intoxication, perfection.



The first thing she noticed was the silence. The dog wasn’t barking. Usually he stood by the garage door, howling so hard that he frothed at the mouth, tugging at his leash until the pressure of the collar against his throat turned his yapping into breathless gasps.

There was something wrong with that dog – she’d always thought so. If he’d been a person, she was sure he’d have been diagnosed with one of those syndromes. He was quite a handsome creature, shiny black coat and big paws, but he was wall-eyed and his teeth were too big. He always seemed a bit out of control, unstable. That he wasn’t barking gave her a brief and indefinable feeling of relief.

It vanished the instant she reached the back door and found it unlocked. She opened it without a sound and stood in the doorway, as the dry indoor heat hit her face.

The emptiness seemed to echo. Then she noticed the smell. Not offensive, just different. Sort of sweet and sharp at the same time. It didn’t belong there.

She stepped quickly into the utility room and pulled the door shut behind her as quietly as she could. The feeling of unease was stronger. She could hear her own heartbeat rushing inside her head.

Slowly she bent down and took off her boots without a sound. A little puddle of water had already formed around them. Without thinking she reached for a dishcloth on the worktop and wiped it up. Her slippers were by the washing-machine, but for some reason she didn’t put them on. She put her gloves into her coat pockets, then took off her coat, hat and scarf and hung them on the hook next to the back door, along with her handbag. Then she walked towards the kitchen in her stockinged feet. The smell was more intense.

The light was on above the kitchen worktop. The third thing that’s wrong, she thought.

The dog. The back door. The light.

Environmental awareness, she remembered. Be aware of the environment. Save electricity. Credibility is important to a politician. You have to set a good example to the voters.

She turned the light off, then walked past the worktop and into the hall.

The dog was lying there.

At first she thought it was a different dog. He seemed so small. Lifelessness had shrunk him. The untamed energy he exuded in life had dissipated and left him looking like a rag on the hall rug, the fake one with the Persian pattern. It was impossible to get it clean with the vacuum – she always had to use a roller afterwards. The dog’s blood hadn’t soaked into the plasticky acrylic material, just lay on top where it had dried into a brown pancake.

Her breathing became laboured. She felt her armpits start to sweat, as they usually did when things got out of hand, when the students in her old school lost concentration and stared, scraping their shoes on the cement floor. She tried to pull herself together. After all, she’d never really liked the dog. Stefan, that was its name. How could anyone give a name like that to a dog?

Keeping close to the wall she made her way into the living room. The curtains were closed. She blinked a few times in the gloom. The air was warm and stuffy. She swallowed. She ought to get out of there. At once.

Someone must have killed the dog. That had been no accident. Why would anyone want to kill it?

There was a noise. Someone groaning. Or coughing, maybe. A low voice, male.

She stiffened.

It had come from upstairs, from the bedrooms.

She looked at the staircase.

The husband mustn’t see her. How could she explain what she was doing there? Mind you, the door had been open, unlocked. Anyone could have walked in.

She looked at the dog again.

He must have killed the dog. Why? Had anything happened to the children? What if they were upstairs?

She thought she could make out more sounds from upstairs, but she wasn’t sure.

What should she do? The house ought to be empty. Locked, shut up.

She stood still in the hall for several minutes, but perhaps it wasn’t actually that long.

Then she wiped her hands on her trousers and, before she had time to change her mind, stepped quickly past the dog and hurried breathlessly up the stairs. She made sure she didn’t tread on the fifth and seventh steps, the ones that creaked.

The door to the children’s room was closed. She opened it cautiously, knew it didn’t squeak. It was only a few weeks since she’d oiled the hinges. The roller-blind with the rabbit pattern was pulled down. The stuffed toys were there but otherwise the room was empty. The children’s beds were made, Isak’s, Samuel’s, and little Elisabeth’s over by the window. She breathed a sigh of relief and closed the door behind her. She walked to the main bedroom.

He was lying in the double bed, if it was actually him. She’d only seen him in the wedding photograph, and his face was unrecognizable. His mouth was wide open, his front teeth missing. His body was in an unnatural position – she hadn’t known that arms and legs could point in those directions. He was wearing trousers and a shirt. No socks. The soles of his feet had been lacerated.

She stared at the man and felt her body filling with something heavy and warm, making it hard to breathe.

Someone had done this to him. What if they were still in the house?

A gurgling noise came from the man’s throat. She found that she could move her legs again, and stumbled backwards onto the landing, regained her balance and walked past the children’s room, down the stairs, past the dog’s body, into the kitchen, then the utility room.

Sweat was trickling down her sides as she fumbled with the buttons of her coat. She was crying as she locked the back door behind her, tears burning with loss and, perhaps, a little guilt.

The lift pinged and came to a stop. Its doors opened with a sucking sound. Nina Hoffman looked uncertainly at the digital numbers: was this right?

She stepped out onto the red-painted landing and the doors closed behind her. A low, muffled sound told her that the lift was disappearing, deep inside the hermetically sealed building.

Yes, this was it, the right stairwell, and the right floor.

To her left was a glass door with an alarm and a coded lock. She walked over and pressed a button that she assumed was a bell. She couldn’t hear anything. She stood and waited, her mouth and throat dry. One of the lifts swept past – she couldn’t tell if it was going up or down. For a moment she felt a pang of dark, giddy uncertainty: what was she doing? Was she really going to put herself through this again?

Then came the muffled sound of heels approaching. A face suddenly appeared on the other side of the glass door. Nina took an involuntary step back.

‘Nina Hoffman?’

The woman was short and blonde, curvy and wearing high heels. Barbie doll.

‘Welcome to National Crime! Come in.’

Nina stepped into the corridor. The ceiling was very low. There was a faint rumbling sound from somewhere. The floor was polished to a high sheen.

‘I’m here for the induction course,’ Nina said, by way of explanation. ‘Perhaps you could tell me where …’

‘The head of CIS says he’d like to see you straight away. You know where to find him?’

How could she? ‘No,’ she replied.

The Barbie doll explained.

Nina’s footsteps plodded dully on the plastic floor; there was no echo. She walked past open doors, fragments of voices dancing past, light from small windows up by the ceiling. At the end of the corridor she turned left and found herself at a corner room with a view of Bergsgatan.

‘Nina, come in.’

Commissioner Q had risen through the ranks. He’d left Stockholm’s Violent Crime Unit to become head of CIS, the Criminal Intelligence Unit at National Crime.

She stepped into the room and unbuttoned her jacket.

‘Welcome to National Crime,’ he said.

That must be the usual greeting for new recruits. ‘Thanks.’

She studied the man behind the desk, without being too obvious about it. His garish Hawaiian shirt clashed badly with the municipal furnishings. They’d had dealings with each other before, when David Lindholm, a police officer, had been found murdered (when she had found David Lindholm murdered), and she wondered if he was going to mention that. His desk was empty, except for a coffee mug, a laptop and two thin folders. He stood up, walked round the desk and greeted her with a firm handshake.

‘Have you found your way around the labyrinth yet?’ he asked, as he gestured towards a visitor’s chair.

How was she supposed to have done that? She’d arrived just five minutes ago. ‘Not yet.’

She hung her jacket over the back of the chair and sat down. It was hard and uncomfortable. He returned to his chair, leaned back and looked at her intently. ‘I understand you’re doing the induction course today. Is that right?’

All week, she’d been told. ‘Yes.’

He reached for one of the folders, put on a pair of reading glasses, opened the first page and read through her CV.

‘Police Academy,’ he said. ‘Then Katarina Police District on Södermalm, trainee, constable and sergeant. Then more studies, Stockholm University, courses in behavioural science, criminology, social psychology and ethnology.’

He looked at her over his glasses. ‘Why behavioural science?’

Because I was lost. Because I wanted to understand people.

‘It seemed … interesting.’

‘You speak Spanish, I understand? As well as German and Portuguese?’

‘I grew up in Tenerife. My dad was German. I understand Portuguese, but I’m not fluent.’


‘Of course.’

He closed the file. ‘When I took this job, I insisted on being allowed to bring in some of my own people. I want you here.’

She didn’t answer, just studied him carefully. What did he mean? Why was he bringing up her education?

Q pushed his glasses up onto his forehead. ‘Why did you leave Katarina and start studying again?’

Because my entire family has been criminal for generations. Because I chose the same path, but from the other side. Because I shot and killed my brother on a hash plantation in Morocco.

‘I felt I needed to develop … that I had more to give.’

He nodded again, and regarded her calmly. ‘We don’t do police jargon here,’ he said. ‘We’re looking for unusual people. Abnormalities are an asset. We want women, gays, ethnic minorities, lesbians, academics …’

Was he trying to shock her? If he was, he’d have to try harder. Or was he fishing?

She didn’t answer.

He smiled. ‘Because you’re a trained police officer, you’re still authorized to carry out police business, so you can conduct interrogations, and so on, in so far as you deem it necessary, but your post here will be as an operational analyst. How important is it for you to go on that induction course?’

She didn’t respond.

‘I mean, you know about timesheets, Lamia can sort out a pass-card, computer and a login ID, and you can go round saying hello to people later, can’t you?’

Presumably Lamia was the blonde. She would have been happy to do the course – she wasn’t sure she remembered how to fill in a timesheet. The system had probably been updated during the four years that had passed since she’d left the force.

The head of CIS took her silence as agreement. ‘Do you know who Ingemar Lerberg is?’ he asked.

Nina searched her memory: a politician, forced to resign. ‘Of course.’

Superintendent Q opened the second file and pulled his glasses onto his nose. ‘Lerberg has been found assaulted in his home in Solsidan, out in Saltsjöbaden, it’s not yet clear if he’s going to make it. We’ve received a request for assistance from Nacka Police. Do you have any contacts out there?’

Solsidan? Wasn’t that a comedy series on television?

‘Not that I can think of.’

He held the folder across the desk. ‘We’re putting together an investigative team today, two or three people to start with. I’d like you to go out and take a look. Don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything you’re not sure about … See it as an introduction to working here.’

The superintendent leaned back in his chair. ‘We’ll get together in the meeting room at nine o’clock sharp tomorrow morning. Bring whatever you’ve been able to find. Lamia will sort out a car for you.’


The house was on its own at the end of the road, not too far from the little station.

Annika Bengtzon switched off the wipers, then leaned forward and tried to peer through the windscreen. The heater was spewing hot, stuffy air into her face, and she turned it down, then glanced up the road.

Nacka Police had cordoned off the turning circle and the far end of the road, the whole of the property and parts of the neighbours’ lawn. Several other journalists had already parked their cars at the side of the road and were either sitting in the warm, behind misted-up windows, or standing about by the cordon. The first news-agency report had claimed that Ingemar Lerberg was dead. Then it had been changed to ‘very seriously injured’. The initial mistake was probably the reason for the remarkably large media interest. A murdered politician was always a murdered politician even if he’d only been a member of Nacka’s social-services committee. But in the past Lerberg had also been a controversial Member of Parliament, someone of whom there were plenty of pictures in the archives.

Annika took a deep breath. Violence still made her feel uneasy, as did hordes of journalists. She decided to stay in the car as long as she could.

The house was situated towards the back of the plot, partially concealed by a thin lilac hedge and a few apple trees, all dripping with water. A rocky outcrop rose up behind it, greyish-yellow from the remnants of last year’s grass. There was nothing remarkable about the building: painted red, white gables, hipped roof, probably built in the 1920s and renovated in the 1970s, when a new façade and large picture windows had been put in. The result was a mishmash, a strained attempt at modernity. It would be difficult to make it live up to its billing as the luxury villa the head of news had said it was, but everything was relative. It was a question of how you phrased things. For her mum at home in Hälleforsnäs, a renovated wooden house in Saltsjöbaden was definitely a luxury villa.

Lerberg had been taken to hospital, she knew that much. There was already some mobile-phone footage on YouTube of him being driven off in the ambulance. Picture-Pelle had spoken to the man who’d shot the footage and offered to buy the rights to post it on the Evening Post website, but had lost out to their wealthier competitors.

The rain wasn’t showing any sign of letting up. A television van turned into the narrow road and parked in front of her, blocking her view of the house. She switched off the engine, pulled up the hood of her raincoat, slung her bag over her shoulder, grabbed the tripod and got out of the car. The wind tugged at her coat. It really was bloody cold. She said a brief hello to TV4 and the prestigious morning paper, but pretended not to notice Bosse, from the other evening paper, who was standing by the turning circle, talking far too loudly into his mobile. She looked at her watch. She hadn’t got the children that week, but she wanted to get away as quickly as possible. Jimmy, her partner, was cooking that night and she’d promised to be home in time for dinner. And there was no exclusive here, nothing to dig out, just routine coverage. Fast and efficient. Get some clips for the website and some quotes from a police officer, then try to embroider a story with fragments of fact.

Assaulted in his home. Very seriously injured.

She set up the tripod in the road in front of the cordon, just a couple of metres from a local radio reporter, then pulled the video-camera out of her bag and fixed it to the stand.

‘Do you want me to hold an umbrella over that?’ the reporter offered. He was tall and thin – she recognized him but didn’t know his name. He was carrying a radio transmitter, with four aerials and a little flashing light, on his back. It made him look like an insect.

She smiled tentatively at him. ‘That would be great. Mind you, by now my camera’s got its own swimming badge, and can ski down black runs …’

‘It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?’ Insect Man agreed. ‘Where does all this snow and rain come from? It’s got to stop at some point …’

She plugged the microphone cable into the audio socket, cleared her throat, pressed play and stood in front of the camera. ‘Here,’ she said, looking hard into the lens, ‘in the middle of the idyllic residential area of Solsidan in Saltsjöbaden, politician Ingemar Lerberg was found seriously assaulted earlier this morning. He has been taken to Södermalm Hospital in Stockholm, where he remains in a critical condition.’ She looked at the radio reporter. ‘That was fifteen seconds, wasn’t it?’

‘Maybe fourteen.’

She lowered the microphone, went to the camera and let it pan across the scene: the dripping cordon, the media scrum, the figures visible behind the closed curtains up in the house. She would use the pictures as a backdrop to a voiceover once she knew more about the case. The reporter was still holding the umbrella above her.

‘It’s not quite as smart as I thought it would be out here,’ he said.

‘It’s probably only the address that’s smart, not the houses,’ Annika said.

She pressed stop, then put the camera back into her bag. The reporter lowered the umbrella.

‘Do you know who first reported it?’ Annika asked.

‘No, just that the alarm was sounded at nine thirty-six.’

Annika looked at the house. The radio reporter and head of news weren’t the only ones who had expected something more. Ingemar Lerberg was the sort of politician who expressed himself through grand gestures and seemingly infinite pomposity. He called himself a businessman, and often had himself photographed on impressive yachts.

‘Why did he resign? From Parliament, I mean.’

‘Something to do with tax,’ Annika said. ‘One of his companies, I think.’ She gestured towards some unmarked cars inside the cordon. ‘National Crime?’

‘I think so,’ the reporter said.

Annika looked up at the house again. Another floodlight was switched on upstairs, and the acid bluish-white light made the dampness outside the window seem to crackle. ‘If National Crime are here, things must be pretty terrible inside,’ she said.

‘Unless the Nacka Police are just covering their backs,’ Insect Man said.

Recent graduates weren’t stupid these days, she thought.

‘Annika Bengtzon,’ a voice said behind her.

Her heart sank. ‘Hello, Bosse,’ she said. She couldn’t understand why she’d once found the idiot attractive.

‘Changing the world at this time in the morning?’

She could either ignore him, which would amount to a declaration of war, or talk to him – he really wasn’t worth getting upset about. She turned and smiled. ‘It’s all food on the table, Bosse. We can’t all live off the dividends from our investments.’

Bosse was fond of holding court at the Press Club, where he would bang on about his risky investments, often made with borrowed money. But the joys of hunting in the stock-market jungle were seldom long-lived. Now his smile became rather more strained. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘here you are, still trudging about in the mud with the rest of us mere mortals.’

Annika raised her eyebrows quizzically.

‘You should be sitting in some state-owned palace in Norrköping, shouldn’t you, now that Jimmy Halenius – your new boyfriend – is about to take charge of the Migration Authority?’ Bosse went on.

Annika had heard Jimmy had been offered the post. She sighed theatrically. ‘Bosse,’ she said, ‘you disappoint me. I thought you were a man with his eye on the ball.’

‘Something’s happening up there,’ the radio reporter said.

Annika pulled out the video-camera and focused on the house. A group of police officers, two in uniform and three in plain clothes, were standing on the porch steps. One of the detectives was a young woman, broad shoulders, slim legs and a long, poker-straight brown ponytail. Annika’s breath caught – could it be …?

‘That’s Nina Hoffman,’ Bosse said, nodding at the woman. ‘She was involved in the David Lindholm murder case. I thought she’d been pensioned off.’

The two reporters went on talking, but Annika didn’t hear what they said. Nina Hoffman had lost weight since she and Annika had last met. Now she was pulling off pale blue plastic bootees and walking towards one of the unmarked police cars, ignoring the media.

The officers on the steps were still talking, and one of the detectives was gesticulating wildly. Then he headed towards the reporters. He stopped a metre or so from the cordon and Annika aimed her camera at him as, beside her, the radio reporter held out his microphone.

‘Well, I can confirm that Ingemar Lerberg was found unconscious in the property behind me,’ the police officer said. ‘We have decided to make this information public, even though some of his family have not yet been informed.’

‘Who hasn’t been informed?’ a woman from the local television station shouted.

The policeman ignored her. A trickle of rainwater ran down his forehead. ‘Ingemar Lerberg has been taken to Södermalm Hospital, where he is currently being operated on. We’ve been told that the outcome is uncertain.’

‘Who made the emergency call?’ The television journalist again.

The policeman rocked on his heels. ‘A full investigation is now under way,’ he said. ‘The chief prosecutor in Nacka, Diana Rosenberg, has been appointed head of the preliminary stages. We will issue further information when—’

‘Who made the call?’ The woman wasn’t about to give up.

‘It was an anonymous tip-off,’ the police officer said.

‘Man or woman?’

‘I can’t answer that.’

‘Can’t or won’t?’

The policeman had had enough. He turned to go back to the house. His hair was plastered to his head, and his jacket was streaked dark with rain.

‘Are you aware of any possible motives for the assault?’ the woman yelled after him. ‘Had Lerberg received any threats? Are there any signs of a break-in?’

The policeman stopped and looked at her over his shoulder. ‘The answer to all your questions is no,’ he said, then hunched his shoulders and hurried towards the house.

Annika put the camera down again and turned back to the group of people gathered by the police cars. There was no sign of Nina Hoffman.

‘Do you want a lift into the city?’ she asked the radio reporter.

‘Thanks, but I’ve got to do a live broadcast at two o’clock.’

‘Have you heard about Schyman?’ Bosse said.

Annika gave him a quizzical look. Bosse looked like a cat that had just caught a canary.

‘He faked his way to the Award for Excellence in Journalism – the series of articles about the billionairess who disappeared?’

Annika raised her eyebrows. ‘Says who?’

‘New information on the internet.’

Dear God, she thought. ‘It was a television documentary,’ she said, getting out her car keys.

Bosse blinked several times.

‘Schyman got the award for a documentary on television,’ she repeated. ‘On both occasions.’

She went to her car, gave Insect Man a wave and got in. While the fan dealt with the condensation on the windscreen, Nina Hoffman drove past and disappeared into the rain.

Editor-in-chief Anders Schyman studied Ingemar Lerberg’s familiar smiling face on the computer screen: chalk-white teeth, dimples, neon-blue eyes. He was standing on a quayside in front of a large oil-tanker wearing an open sports jacket, his shirt unbuttoned at the neck, wind in his hair.

They had known each other for ten years, possibly more. Fifteen? For a couple of years they had both been on the Rotary Club’s committee, but since the revelations about Lerberg’s tax affairs, contact between them had been sporadic. Schyman liked him, though, and wondered who on earth could have wanted to beat the crap out of him.

He refreshed the page to read the latest news on the attack. Annika Bengtzon had posted a picture of the crime scene on Twitter: media coverage of the case seemed to be pretty extensive. There was no motive, no acknowledged threat and no sign of a break-in.

He went back to Lerberg’s website – or, rather, his company’s, International Transport Consultancy. Lerberg was a smart businessman, active in shipping and sea transport, something to do with digital systems for the coordination of maritime shipments. He was also pushing for the development of a new marina in Saltsjöbaden, a luxury harbour for yachts and cruisers. But, of course, he was best known as a politician.

Schyman typed in a search for ‘lerberg politician saltsjöbaden’. A number of articles in the Evening Post came up – always a source of satisfaction to him, even if he knew that the search results were adapted to suit his own preferences. He glanced down the page, and found a thread on a discussion forum that made him lean forward: Gossip about powerful people in Saltsjöbaden. With Lerberg’s and several others, he found his own name: Anders Schyman, Crusader for Truth.

What was this? He didn’t usually Google himself, not often, anyway, but he’d never seen this before. Curious, he clicked on the link. A short video appeared on the screen, a lit candle and a picture of him taken at some party. He was standing with a glass in his hand, smiling broadly at the camera, his eyes and forehead glowing slightly. Could it have been taken after some debate at the Publicists’ Club?

We know him, everyone knows him, our hero, the defender of reality, the Man Who Saves Us from Corruption and Abuses of Power, the great editor and legally accountable publisher of the Evening Post.

He leaned even closer to the screen. What the hell was this?

Admittedly, there are those who claim he sacrificed his ethics and morals on the altars of the paper’s proprietors and capitalism when he left state-funded television and took charge of the most frivolous, attention-seeking tabloid in Sweden, but the Light of Truth judges no one without giving them a fair hearing. We value tolerance and openness here, and we stick to verifiable facts.

Schyman glanced up at the top of the screen: yes, the blogger had evidently called the site ‘The Light of Truth’. It sounded ominous.

We’re all aware of his magnificent past achievements, his personal appeal, his considerable background in journalism: a university lecturer, chair of the Newspaper Publishers Association, the editor who made the Evening Post ‘Sweden’s Biggest Daily Paper’ – as well as winning the Award for Excellence in Journalism twice! What an achievement! What a triumph! An (almost) unparalleled accomplishment! Let us all break out into a heartfelt chorus of hallelujahs!

Well, it was hardly that remarkable. Several other journalists had won the prize twice.

But the Light of Truth didn’t acquire that name for nothing. This is the home of the Light that illuminates Reality and What Really Matters. This is a haven for Critical Thinking and Counterintuitive Thought, Opposition to the ghastly Political Correctness of the Media Establishment. Feel free to call me the Scourge of Hypocrisy and Cant.

Let us take a closer look at Anders Schyman’s great journalistic achievements. Let us take a step closer to the Light, and examine these triumphs carefully …

What on earth was going on?

No one remembers the first time Our Hero was accorded the extraordinary honour known as the Award for Excellence in Journalism.

It is Anders Schyman’s second journalistic triumph that warrants proper illumination, his true media breakthrough, the documentary that led him to step out of the concrete grey shadows of state-funded television and into our cosily furnished living rooms. Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, let us shine the Light on Viola Söderland.

‘He’s still alive.’

Anders Schyman started. The head of news, Patrik Nilsson, was standing, legs apart, on the other side of the desk, his voice full of disappointment. Schyman clicked away from the blog with a quick, embarrassed gesture. He hadn’t heard the glass door slide open and was still seeing Viola Söderland before him in all her surgically enhanced elegance. ‘I was as certain as anyone could be,’ he said. ‘She disappeared of her own volition.’

Nilsson looked at him blankly. ‘Södermalm Hospital has just issued a new statement,’ he said. ‘Lerberg suffered a cardiac arrest during the operation and the staff had to use a defibrillator to get him going again. He’s being kept sedated because of the extent of his injuries.’

Schyman’s thoughts were running like lava through his head, but he tried to maintain a neutral expression. He cleared his throat and looked at the empty screen in front of him. The blog post had shaken him, and he felt as if its insinuations were written on his face.

‘Do you remember Viola Söderland?’ he asked.

Nilsson’s face shifted from expressionless to confused. ‘Who?’

Schyman stood up and went to the sofa. ‘The billionairess. Golden Spire.’ He sank down on the worn cushions.

Nilsson hitched up his jeans under his burgeoning beer-gut and glanced out at the newsroom on the other side of the glass wall. ‘The woman who disappeared? The one with the massive tax debt?’

At first Schyman was offended, then relieved. The Light of Truth had evidently over-estimated the level of general awareness of his journalistic triumph. No one cared any more. It wasn’t an issue. ‘The woman who disappeared,’ he confirmed.

‘What about her? Has she turned up?’

‘In a way. Is Lerberg going to make it?’ he asked.

‘What about the billionairess? Have I missed something.’

Schyman stood up again. Why could he never learn to keep his mouth shut? ‘So we’re not dealing with a murdered politician?’

‘He might die before we go to print,’ Nilsson said hopefully. ‘We’ll hold the front page for the time being.’

A somewhat premature front page on which the man was declared dead was evidently ready to print. Well, it wasn’t up for debate: meeting the deadline was the only thing that mattered.

‘We’ll just have to hope we need a new one,’ Schyman said, which Nilsson took as a sign that it was time to go back to work. He slid the door open and left, failing to close it properly behind him. The sounds of the newsroom flowed in through the narrow gap: a discordant jumble of voices, keyboards, the jingles of television news channels, the dull whirr of the ventilation system.

And soon it would be over, at least for him. The newspaper’s board had been informed and had accepted his resignation. In little more than a week his departure would be made public, and the hunt for his successor would roll into action.

He wasn’t leaving things in a bad state. The figures from the past year had remained strong, confirming the Evening Post as the biggest newspaper in Sweden. He’d beaten off the competition and now it was time to relax.

Schyman went back to his computer and looked at the screen-saver, a black-and-white photograph taken by his wife of the rocks on their island out in Rödlöga archipelago. It wasn’t much more than an outcrop. No water or drainage, electricity supplied from a generator at the back of the house, but for them it was Paradise.

Maybe a wind turbine down by the shore, he mused. Then they could live there all year round. A satellite dish to keep in touch with the rest of the world. A jetty for a larger boat. A few solar panels on the roof to heat water, and a satellite phone for emergencies.

He decided to look into planning permission for a wind turbine.


Nina parked the car in a reserved space next to the main entrance to Södermalm Hospital. It was pouring with rain. The hospital was the largest emergency medical centre in Scandinavia, and during her time as a sergeant on Södermalm she had been there several times each month, sometimes several times a week – everything tended to blur together, with the exception of the morning of 3 June almost five years ago. The morning when David Lindholm, the most famous police officer in Sweden, had been found dead (when she had found David dead), and his wife Julia was admitted to intensive care in a catatonic state.

She got out of the car and walked through the vast foyer, with its glass roof and polished stone floor, showed her ID at Reception, explained why she was there, and was referred to a Dr Kararei, the senior consultant in the intensive-care unit. Fourth floor, lift B.

It smelt as it always did. The corridors were scrubbed clean and poorly lit. She passed medics in rustling coats and patients shuffling along in slippers.

She rang the bell outside ICU and had to wait several minutes before it was opened by Dr Kararei himself. He turned out to be a large man with short fingers and only a trace of an accent.

Nina introduced herself. It felt odd saying she was from National Crime – the words didn’t seem to sit right in her mouth. ‘Is it possible to conduct a short interview with the victim?’ she asked.

‘Perhaps we should discuss this in private,’ the doctor said, and ushered her into an empty consulting room. It was cool, almost cold. The doctor didn’t switch the lights on. The light from the window was heavy and grey.

‘The patient is still in the operating theatre,’ he said, sitting heavily on a small desk. He gestured to Nina to take the patient’s chair.

‘How is he?’

‘I’d say his chances of survival are extremely uncertain.’

If Lerberg died, the police would have the murder of a politician to deal with. Not a prime minister or foreign minister, admittedly, but a high-profile violent crime. She mustn’t mess up. She shifted on the chair, cleared her throat, took out the brand new mobile, provided by Lamia, and searched for the recording function. Her fingers seemed to swell above the screen and she did something wrong. She went back to the start menu and began again.

‘So his injuries are life-threatening?’ she said, once the timer indicated that the phone was recording properly.

‘Possibly not in themselves. But it’s the combination that makes his condition so complicated, along with severe dehydration.’

He reached for a chart containing the patient’s notes.

‘So the victim had gone without food and water for some time?’ Nina said, glancing at her phone’s screen. ‘How long?’ She put the phone on the desk beside the doctor.

He turned a page and studied the information, then read some out quietly to himself: ‘Severe metabolic disruption, principally electrolytes and salts, sodium and potassium, as well as erratic base oxygen values … At least three days, I’d say.’

Nina counted backwards in her head. So the assault had taken place late on Thursday or early on Friday. ‘How much longer would he have lasted if he hadn’t been found?’

‘Difficult to say. Another hour or so. He wouldn’t have survived the morning.’

She glanced at the phone and hoped their voices were being stored on the memory chip. She’d have to make sure afterwards that she’d saved the recording properly. ‘What injuries have you managed to identify?’

The doctor carried on reading. ‘The patient had extensive bleeding and tissue damage to his groin and the surrounding musculature, as well as multiple torn ligaments …’ He looked up at her over his glasses. ‘We’ve had to open him up to drain the blood and reduce the risk of compartment syndrome.’

Nina looked at him, wide-eyed. ‘I don’t understand,’ she said.

‘The bleeding in his groin was extensive, but confined, which leads to increased pressure and the risk of tissue death. The surgeon’s doing her best to reconnect his torn muscles and ligaments, but it’s a very sensitive job …’

‘So his legs had been pulled apart until the muscles ruptured?’ Nina said.

The doctor looked down at the notes again and read in silence for a few moments. The room smelt of fresh disinfectant. When he spoke again, he described how the victim’s shoulders had been dislocated bilaterally, with extensive swelling in the surrounding tissue, rotator cuffs and joints, which needed to be brought down. ‘That means his shoulders have had to be put back in place,’ he said. ‘We’re also having to reconnect torn muscles and ligaments there as well.’

‘Does he have any injuries around his wrists?’

The doctor looked down at his notes, and read out, ‘Circular ulceration and laceration, approximately one centimetre across.’

Nina checked that the recording was still working. ‘So they tied his hands behind his back, then strung him up by his wrists,’ she said.

Dr Kararei looked at the window for a moment, as if he were trying to imagine the scene. Then he returned to the notes. ‘The tissue of the plantar fascia in his feet has been dislodged, and exhibits centimetre-wide haematomas in various stages of discoloration.’

Repeated blows to the soles of his feet with a blunt instrument, over a protracted period of time, Nina thought.

‘We’ve found pinprick bleeding in the whites of his eyes, as well as in his mouth, inside his cheeks and under his tongue.’

Nina nodded. ‘Attempted strangulation?’

‘Probably not,’ the doctor said. ‘There’s no bruising on his neck, no marks from fingers or a noose.’

‘But it does suggest suffocation?’


Nina took a few deep breaths. ‘There was a plastic bag at the crime scene,’ she said. ‘On the floor in the children’s room. I saw it.’

‘His face exhibits both haematomas and red oedemas.’

‘So he was beaten, which resulted in bleeding and swelling,’ Nina said.

‘Five ribs in the lower right-hand side of his ribcage have been broken, and his lung collapsed. His left eyeball was punctured with a pointed instrument …’

Nina’s hands lay motionless on her lap. The air felt ice-cold on the back of her throat as she breathed in.

The doctor put the notes down.

Nina raised her chin and tried to keep her voice steady. ‘These are means of torture,’ she said. ‘Classics, tried and tested. These methods have names.’

His face was calm but serious as he gazed at her. ‘I’ve seen them in other parts of the world,’ he said, ‘but never before in Sweden.’

She said nothing for a while. Then: ‘If he does survive, will he ever make a full recovery?’

‘The soles of his feet will heal, even if it takes a few weeks. His groin will be extremely painful for a month or so, and he’ll probably be left with some degree of chronic aching and weakness. We’ve stitched his eye back together, and the fluid will gradually build up again, but there’s a risk of permanent sight impairment. There’s also a risk of limited function in his shoulders, besides ongoing pain … The unknown factor is really the shortage of oxygen. We don’t yet know if he’s suffered any brain damage.’

Nina sat where she was, unable to move. ‘And mentally?’

‘Long-term rehabilitation,’ the doctor said, getting to his feet.

Nina reached for her mobile, switched off the recording, then saved the file. She seemed to be moving slightly awkwardly, as if the chair had made her stiff. ‘Thanks,’ she said. ‘Can I see him? Just through the door of the operating theatre?’

The doctor shook his head.

‘When will he regain consciousness, to the point at which he can be questioned?’

He gave her his card, with the direct number of his mobile, and said she was welcome to call at any time. ‘I keep expecting the patient’s wife to get in touch,’ he said, as they left the room. ‘Do you know where she is?’

Nina glanced at him. How much did he know? How much could she tell him?

She stepped out into the dimly lit corridor. The door of the consulting room slid shut with a hiss. Dr Kararei gave the impression that he was the sort of man you could trust.

‘This must stay between us for the time being,’ she said, ‘but Nora Lerberg is missing.’

The doctor started to head towards the exit, and Nina walked alongside him. ‘We’ve located the three children,’ she went on. ‘They’re with an aunt in Vikingshill, but we haven’t managed to track down his wife. No one knows where she is.’