Thursday, October 18, 2012

Heard: "Easy Money" by Jens Lapidus

Heard: Easy Money by Jens Lapidus, 2011 (audio at least) 2006 for Swede version, Overdrive download.

No good guys.  Plenty of bad guys.  I just read in the catalog record that Lapidus is an attorney.

Swedish crime novel with three main characters: JW, Jorge, and Mrado.

JW is a working class kid from Northern Sweden.  He's in university in Stockholm and pretending to be a rich kid, hanging out with the super wealthy and driving a gypsy cab for spending cash.  JW is wrapped up in image and the image of success and wealth: clothes, cars, cash, haircuts, slang, an aloof attitude.  The rich Swedes are very shallow.  JW drives a cab for an Arab (forgot his name) who also runs cocaine.  JW's pals are users and JW is offered a job to sell.  JW has an in with the wealthy kid market.  JW takes the job, starts making lots of cash, and moves up in the organization with marketing, business, and banking knowledge learned at school.  JW intermittently searches for his older sister that went missing in Stockholm three years previously.

Mrado is a Serb who grew up in the poor parts of Stockholm.  The Serbs always stick together.  Mrado went to Serbia and served with Arkan (bloodthirsty, murderous, raping piece of human garbage) in the war.  Mrado came back and worked up in the Serb crime underworld.  Mrado takes steroids.  Mrado Mrado pumps iron.  Mrado trains in MMA.  Mrado is a hitman, strongman, and midlevel boss in the Serb crime ring.  Mrado is demoted within the gang and plans revenge with another demoted guy.

Jorge's family is Chilean.  Jorge is in jail for cocaine.  The Serbs screwed employee Jorge during his trial.  Jorge escapes from a high security prison.  Jorge plans revenge on the Serbs and tries to extort money.  Mrado finds Jorge and beats him near death.  JW was looking for cocaine wizard Jorge, finds him at same time as Mrado, recovers the beaten Jorge.  Jorge joins JW and Arab in selling dope.

In the end no gets what they should have coming.

1.  No good guys here.  All the bad guys have varying levels of bad-ness.  Mrado is the worst.  He is a killer and strongman who cares little for breaking bones or murder.  Are there any good-guy Serbs in literature?  After the war I doubt it.
2.  A look at immigrant Sweden.  Chileans. Serbs.  Syrians.  Turks.  They are all working to move up to more money and better neighborhoods.  They are all facing a glass ceiling.  The wealthy blond Swedes do not fully welcome the newcomers.
3. Inside look at small time and big time money laundering.  Mrado starts up video stores to launder illegal earnings.  JW uses his school know-how to start bank accounts on the Isle of Man that has very strict banking privacy laws.  JW has accounts in England and moves the money around from Sweden, to England to the Isle.
4.  Lawyer Lapidus loves alliteration.  How much trouble was that for the translator?
5.  With the swell of Swedes over the past decade I've become cynical that the recent ones will be blah.  That publishers are finding some Thorstenssonss and Holmsengardnersons and IngridFridas to put on the cover.
6.  All the bad guys have good sides.  JW really digs his girlfriend and misses his sister.  Jorge is loyal to friends, loves his older sister.  Mrado deeply loves his daughter and considers himself a caring and thoughtful father, he is loyal to other Serbs.
7.  The justice system has trouble convicting people.  Witnesses are threatened, people lie, prisons sentences seem incredibly brief compared to here.

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