Geiger by Gustaf Skördeman: A gripping, race-against-time plot - book review -
Why would a one-word telephone message compel a 69-year-old grandmother to immediately seek out a long-hidden pistol, screw on the silencer… and shoot her husband through the head?
All is revealed in Swedish screenwriter, director and producer Gustaf Skördeman’s pulsating debut thriller, Geiger, which is being published in twenty-four countries, and whose film rights have been optioned by Monumental Pictures.
Translated by Ian Giles, this tense and terrifying mix of unpredictable spy drama, murder mystery and edge-of-the seat action thriller has all the ingredients of a modern classic as Skördeman unleashes his filmic imagination on a tale stretching back into European politics.
A code word, an extraordinary killing that sets in motion a desperate hunt for a face from the past, and the ageing woman who must solve a mystery to stop a deadly plot fifty years in the making, lie at the heart of Skördeman’s intriguing, perfectly plotted novel.
It’s the end of a busy week for doting grandmother Agneta Broman. Her two daughters, Malin and Lotta, and their husbands have just picked up the four grandchildren who have been staying at her home near Stockholm while their parents enjoyed a much-need holiday in France.
As Agneta breathes a sigh of relief that everything is returning to normal, and her 85-year-old husband Stellan, a former celebrity TV presenter known for his high life of ‘parties and frolics,’ settles down to read in his study, the landline phone rings.
Just one word comes out of the receiver… ‘Geiger.’ For decades, Agneta has known that this moment – and this call – would come, but she is still shaken because she knows what it means, and what she must do.
Retrieving her pistol from its hiding place, she attaches the silencer and creeps up behind her husband before pressing the barrel to his temple. Then she squeezes the trigger, and goes to the window to wave one last goodbye to her departing family as they drive away.
Taking with her a pre-prepared list of items in a rucksack, Agneta disappears, leaving behind her wallet and her keys.
Soon on the extraordinary murder case is detective Sara Nowak who works in the police prostitution unit. Her involvement isn’t official but she was once close to the family of Stellan and Agneta Broman and, defying regulations, she joins the investigation.
What the ‘permanently angry’ Sara doesn’t know is that the mysterious code word is just the first piece in the puzzle of an intricate and terrifying plot dating back to a ‘superhuman terrorist’ reputed to be behind every attack in Europe in the 1970s.
The ‘catastrophic scenario’ that for Agneta had been merely a distant threat was now actually happening. Can she pull off her long-awaited mission?
If a fiendishly twisting tale floats your spy thriller boat, then the electrifying Geiger is guaranteed to spark a reading frenzy as Skördeman slowly and intriguingly reveals some hidden and disturbing truths, and ramps up the tension to breaking point.
No one is what they seem or can be trusted in this clever, compelling and multi-layered story as we are plunged into the inner workings of international terrorism, state and human corruption, and some dark corners of European history.
Determined to uncover the truth is the troubled Sara Nowak, a prickly police detective whose struggles involve not just making sense of Agneta’s disappearance but keeping her increasingly volatile temper under control.
With a broad canvas backdrop, acutely observed characters, and a gripping, race-against-time plot that culminates in one final, jaw-dropping twist, you can certainly count on Geiger for spills, chills and thrills!
(Zaffre, hardback, £12.99)