Geiger by Gustaf Skördeman – Book Review

Geiger by Gustaf Skördeman – Book Cover

Have you been waiting for, and so far in vain, a crime novel similar to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which once sparked the renaissance of Scandinavian crime fiction? If so, Gustaf Skördeman’s Geiger, the introductory novel in his series, might catch your eye. After all, it lures you in with this exact promise on the cover. (At least on the Hungarian* edition.) But what if this only makes your disappointment all the more bitter?

Sara Nowak is not a captivating character

No. She’s a mom. She’s not tattooed either. But she does struggle with anger management issues. This isn’t very useful for a police officer. And, naturally, not for a mother either. In fact, Sara Nowak is quite embarrassing as a mom. She’s the typical overprotective, constantly lecturing person who wants to guide her kids as a moral compass. No wonder they kind of hate her. (You’d hate her too if you were all turned on and went on PronHub to, uh, broaden your horizons a bit, and she barged in to tell you it was immoral towards women.)

Nowak, as a police officer, likes to rough up suspects who indeed deserve it, but how stupid is it to do this constantly in front of witnesses? Is this woman crazy?!

Moreover, despite being a trained martial artist, she somehow always ends up on the losing side in real-life situations.

Ah, damn it!

And why on earth does a lousy vice cop meddle in someone else’s investigation anyway?

So, Gustaf Skördeman didn’t quite pull this off. It’s simply impossible to like Sara Nowak, the main character. Maybe by the very end of Geiger, just a little bit. Perhaps.

East German spy network in Sweden, hello!

Does anyone even care about this anymore? Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall? The whole bunch is old as dirt. Half of them are senile. And really, what important information could they have accessed back then in mild, boring, neutral Sweden?

Yet, despite all this, you find the game of the aged spies much more exciting than Sara Nowak’s investigation. Agneta, the 60-plus-year-old grandma who switches to Terminator mode, and Karla Breuer, the German counterintelligence officer stuck in the past, are about five times more interesting than Nowak. Individually. (And they’re certainly not playing their own parody, unlike the retirees in The Thursday Murder Club.)

Naturally, part of the reason is that Sara Nowak, the investigator in Geiger, conducts more historical research than real investigations. That is, of course, when she has time aside from her own family issues. In short: She’s bored with her husband, her kids are bored with her. Well, who the hell cares?!

Sweden’s most dysfunctional family

But seriously. The Bromans in Geiger are the most messed-up family you’ve ever heard of. Of course, to realize all this, you have to get to the end of the book. In any case, it’s far from clear why Agneta didn’t put a bullet in her dear husband Stellan’s head thirty years ago.

And it also requires Abu Rasil, the terrorist mastermind, to come out of retirement.

Oh, Abu Rasil, just what we were missing! (And how hasn’t Gabriel Allon and his team caught him yet?) Anyway, the point is, by the end of Geiger, the stakes start to rise exponentially. And as the stakes rise, so do your eyes widen in amazement.

A big bang at the end!

Like when a balloon pops.

Skördeman’s Geiger, which you long thought to be a simple Scandinavian crime novel with a bit of added spy story flair, starts to burst out of its own frame. We all know what a stretched frame looks like, right? It’s not a pretty sight. Just wood scraps. But Gustaf Skördeman keeps stretching it.

Uncle Stellan’s backyard begins to gain world-historical significance. Uncle Stellan’s wife, the retired granny, also begins to gain world-historical significance. The Soviet Union, Gorbachev, and Yeltsin all come into play. And Abu Rasil wants to throw in a bunch of nuclear bombs too.

And all of these make up the more believable part of the book Geiger.

By the end of the first part of the Sara Nowak series, you’re simply bored out of your mind. Geiger has never been exactly a paragon of thrilling excitement, but when it should have ended with just one exciting action scene, Gustaf Skördeman throws in two completely unnecessary yet ridiculously unbelievable twists, which you can’t even laugh at anymore. You don’t feel like it, you’re just too bored.

6.9/10

Geiger (Sara Nowak #1) by Gustaf Skördeman
432 pages, Hardcover
Published in 2022 by Grand Central Publishing

* This is a Hungarian blog

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