"Take the independence and determination of Peter Hoeg's Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, stir in the sharpness and honesty of Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs... and you begin to sense the qualities that make up Annika Bengtzon."
Daily Express (UK)
Annika Bengtzon reports from the cold streets of Stockholm and the snow-covered industrial landscape of Sweden's far north, as well as from the luxurious beaches of Spain's Costa del Sol, in Liza Marklund's original and appealing novels about the reckless crime reporter.
The bustling and demanding editorial offices of the Swedish tabloid Kvällspressen serve as the starting point from which the stories branch out. Annika Bengtzon is a courageous and compassionate woman, but there is also a dark and sometimes destructive streak within her. Her character evolves distinctly throughout the series, both professionally and personally: from abuse victim to married mother of two to divorced single mother. Annika's attitude to her job goes beyond the description 'highly ambitious' — she is an incurable workaholic, completely dependent on the affirmation she receives in her professional role as a clever and analytical reporter. She has few close relationships, but loves her family deeply. Being close to her children is important to her, yet what keeps her going is writing the best pieces. The conflict between her professional ambition and the demands of family life is a key theme in the series.
Ultimately, what makes Marklund's female protagonist easy to identify with is her authenticity: Annika Bengtzon is stubborn to the point of idiocy, disastrously bad at cooperating with anyone she doesn't like, and often makes the wrong choices. Annika Bengtzon's investigations take her far beyond pinning down the perpetrator, as she is constantly faced with questions of evil, justice, and injustice in her work. Her ambition to report the truth often places her in life threatening situations. Throughout the series, she is exposed to violence, threats, and kidnappings. And for what? For the ultimate news story.
Starting with The Bomber, in which Annika is already a deft professional, the story then moves back in time several years, to the start of her career and the meeting with her future husband Thomas. By the fifth installment Red Wolf, we are back in the present. Nobel's Last Will, Lifetime and A Place in the Sun (books 6,7 and 8), form a trilogy within the series, with recurring characters and themes as well as interconnected plots.
"One of Marklund's greatest achievements is the subtle strength of her heroine, Annika Bengtzon, an incredibly passionate and believable character. Like many women, Annika struggles to keep her career and family in balance. Though sometimes one suffers for the other, her love of both, and the sacrifices she makes, paint the portrait of a modern woman's complicated and credible life. Annika is not just there to make wry comments and complain about the injustices in the world. She is there to do something about it."
"A true protagonist for our times, crime journalist Bengtzon is my kind of heroine. She's an uncompromising professional driven by ambition and moral vision to report the truth... Yet she's also a mother and a woman as uncertain and vulnerable as we all are when it comes to the hazy territory of love and companionship. In a word, she's real. She's us. Or who we'd like to be."
"Annika has been with me since I was a child. I was eight years old when I started writing dramatic stories about her in my home in Pålmark. The village – three farms and an outhouse – is located in the vast forests just below the Arctic Circle in the northernmost region of Sweden. Annika was busy catching villains even back then. She was sly and strong, and got herself into trouble, but she always triumphed in the end. Today both Annika and I have grown up, but the stories are basically the same.
I want to write about someone that I can identify with. Someone who is a bit over the top in every way, who has failings and flaws, but is still believable. Someone who has overcome the fear and anxiety I struggle with even now, and who makes me believe that anything is possible.
When I started writing about Annika Bengtzon, I had five novels in mind. I began with the fourth one in the series, The Bomber, because that particular story was closest to me at the time. So far, I have written eight novels in the series. They follow Annika Bengtzon's progress at the newspaper Kvällspressen: from her first clumsy attempts as an inexperienced intern to the disillusioned former editor of the crime section. Her personal life is described in great detail, and there is a purpose for this. Each novel has a theme, an issue that I illuminate from two different perspectives: partly through the story of the crime, and partly through Annika's personal development. For example, in Lifetime the theme revolves around what lasts an entire lifetime. A Place in the Sun is about what people are prepared to do for a position among society's crème de la crème.
I currently have three more stories about Annika in mind, and I know what's going to happen to her. After that, we'll see... there are so many stories that I long to tackle!"
"What impresses me most about Liza Marklund's novels is that they are intelligent and gripping. As if that isn't enough to raise them above just about everyone else's work—Liza writes lively, often funny dialogue."
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