REVIEW

Jonas Jonasson's latest novel is about taking ethically dubious revenge

  • Sweet Sweet Revenge Ltd, by Jonas Jonasson. Harpervia, $24.99.

What is it about Sweden? They do magnificent crime mysteries and laugh-out-loud societial commentary, in the guise of novels. I'm in awe.

A friend had told me to look out for Jonas Jonasson, a senior Swedish journalist who decided to turn his hand to long-form writing. If Australian journalism has produced a strong crop of fine novelists, Swedish journalism is similarly blessed.

This is a weird book. Society would tell us that revenge is seldom a very good idea. A very few people in my life seriously wounded me - professionally, never personally - and very briefly I contemplated revenge. Bad idea, quickly shelved.

So what if you founded a business based on the idea of assisting wounded people to wreak havoc on those who had bothered them as neighbours, wounded them as business colleagues or rivals, or, in general, made their lives less happy? Very bad idea.

Yet a successful, if bored, adman designs a business on precisely these lines. Early success encourages him. Who knew llamas had such protective instincts for those they stabled with so that any predator would be brutally despatched?

Who knew a vindictive football coach, confusing a concrete block for a genuine football, would break 18 bones in his ankle in a simple act of revenge?

So, a rollicking good start to what looks like a jolly book with a dubious ethical solution to life's ills.

We meet Swedish and African folk of the nicest possible type, utterly adorable, naive and whip-smart in the same moment. We meet a really nasty person - fascist to boot - who has done most of them in.

Light and fluffy, immensely amusing, trite, probably, written with a global tiredness that is the major source of humour. The plotting is magnificent. If you object to Charles Dickens on the score of his outrageous coincidences, this is definitely not the book for you. Coincidence is the main game. A boy even drops from heaven!

And yet the book toughens up to include murder, a botched police investigation - well, the lead investigator is only three days away from retirement - and real danger to our cast of delightful, morally upright, and very good people.

Readers inclined to pessimism at the size of our gargantuan national debt, the hopelessness of our policy-deprived, marketing-led government, and the failure of our society to embrace gender balance and racial diversity, really need to read this book.

With this book you will laugh, think, enjoy and learn. You will embrace Maasia and Swedish culture, you will learn that goodies win and baddies lose, as it should be.

And you will find it hard to put this book down until the last page is turned.

This story Revenge, cold or not, could well be a good idea first appeared on The Canberra Times.