Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Done: "Never Fuck Up" by Jens Lapidus

Done: Never Fuck Up by Jens Lapidus, 2013 (US edition), 9780307377494.

What a bad idea for a title. I imagine the author sitting talking with his agent, "I refuse to alter my title. I don't care that people will not buy or stock a title with an expletive." Too bad because this book is as good as the first in the trilogy, Easy Money. Written with short, choppy writing with Swedish slang and lingo. A good twist on the setting, Lapidus's characters even refer to some other Swedish crime fiction as unrealistic and rosy.

Three main characters and they are all fucked up. Mahmud just did a six month stretch for drug dealing. Niklas has returned after years of warring in Iraq and Afghanistan as a contractor. Thomas is a street cop with a violent streak and corrupt tendencies (just a little here and there, he says). They all mix together in a criminal underworld run by Yugoslavs and a cop world run by internal politics and the reactions to bad press.  The three unknowingly circle around one another in a Stockholm that is not and clean and neat as the Swedes and the rest of the world believe.

Lapidus's Stockholm is segregated. The Svens are the everyday, traditional Swedes, the squares. The blattes are the dark skinned immigrants living in the projects, selling the drugs, and hitting a Swedish glass ceiling in the civilian world. The uber-wealthy pull the strings, fuck the prostitutes, snort the drugs, and move the money around. The Yugos run the underworld and don't give a damn about you; you either earn the Yugos money and do as you're told or you will pay in blood.

Mahmud was in prison for dealing steroids.  He's an oversized gym rat who pops pills and slurps protein shakes.  He owes a few thousand Kronor to another gang for the steroids he was busted with. His humiliation and mental torture - threatened with death while a pistol is put in his mouth - left him very shaken. He takes a job offer from the Yugos to find a fellow blatte who took money from the Yugos.

Niklas was already screwed up after growing up as his mother was frequently beaten by her boyfriend.  Niklas would be sent to a dank apartment building basement when the alcoholic boyfriend wanted sex. After a few years of contractor combat he is double-up on PTSD. He fancies himself as an avenger for women, a military commando for good. He does knife katas for hours, goes on runs and exercises, and starts stalking abusive husbands.

Thomas is a very cynical street cop. He despises desk cops and the street filth he works with. He does some small corruption that is never identified but gives him the cash to work on restoring his 1950s Cadillac.  He's withdrawn from his wife and unable to have sex. He can masturbate to online porn but cannot relate to his wife. Thomas and his partner take a call on a dead body and find a murdered man with no teeth, fingerprint skin cut off, and a beaten until unrecognizable. Thomas notices intravenous injection marks. The autopsy does not list those marks. Thomas wonders, "What the hell?"

Things happen. Mahmud works his way into the Yugo organization but is a nobody to them. Mahmud has big pride and chaffs. Thomas wants to know what happened with the autopsy and when a senior cop appears and blocks his questioning he keeps looking. Niklas visits a domestic violence shelter and steals a list of women's names. He sets up cameras to watch the houses and plot to kill the men. Niklas meets Mahmud after beating up the abusive boyfriend of Mahmud's sister. They are all in the same building on New Year's when Niklas and Mahmud are raiding a Yugo sponsored prostitute party for the uber-rich and Thomas is sneaking in to search the rich home owner's financial binders.

1. All three guys suffer under some sort of PTSD or trauma. 
2. All three guys think they are something other than what they are. They see themselves as good guys even though their actions show the opposite. They see themselves as victims of others rather than victims of their own bad decisions.
3.  Only one or two bad guys get their comeuppance. The ones at the top always get away. Lapidus is a criminal attorney in Stockholm and I presume he has learned how all the front companies, and cut-outs keep the owners and managers out of the clink.
4. A couple recurring characters from the first novel. The Yugo head, Radovan, meets with Thomas and appears at a party Mahmud attends. The Argentinian from Easy Money is still out for revenge on the Yugos and pays Mahmud to raid the New Year's prostitute party.
5. I bought the film adaptation of Easy Money, Easy Money: life deluxe, for work but have not watched it.
EDIT: 6. How could I forget the right-wing police conspiracy to murder Prime Minister Olof Palme? Thomas's derailed investigation into the man's death is linked to Palme's murder. The dead man was a primary witness who connected the suspected shooter to a possible murder weapon (that weapon was still missing). Thomas finds a connection between a right-wing group of police officers who were virulently anti-communist.  Thomas is threatened, and beaten, to warn him off his private investigation. Thomas is kinda like James Ellroys's Bud White, Thomas is better at thumping than thinking.

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