Thursday, February 12, 2015

Heard A While Ago: "Life Delux" by Jens Lapidus

Heard A While Ago: Life Delux by Jens Lapidus, 2014, Overdrive download.

Third and last of, as Kirkus says, sprawling novels of Stockholm crime.  Lapidus pulls together the main characters of the first two novels. Radovan the ruthless Serbian crime lord. JW the rich-boy wannabe money launderer, Jorge who stills pines for ghetto crime stardom, Mahmud stuck in low tier crime and legitimate business.

New characters include policeman Hagerstorm and debutante Natalie. Hagerstrom is a detective recruited by a legendary ranking police officer who wants Hagerstrom to go undercover as a prison guard and get close to JW. JW is close to release from prison and the cops know he his an underworld money guy.  Hagerstrom's new boss arranges Hagerstrom's "firing" and new hiring at JW's prison.

Natalie is Radovan's pampered daughter. She loves Facebook, clothes, shoes, European travel, snobbiness, and bored and aloof facial expressions. When he father dies after a bombing she wants to take over the crime business but faces trouble from her father's right hand man.

Things happen. Jorge has been leaving clean and running a cafe with Mahmud. But, Jorge has trouble with the straight life; Jorge loves ghetto flash and cash and hooks up with a guy who plans cash in transit robberies. The robbery goes off but the take is low and Jorge heads to Thailand.

Hagerstrom hangs out with JW after JW's prison release. Hagerstrom grew up uber-rich in a high class family. JW wants more than cash, he wants a place in the super-insular high society of Stockholm that runs the country.  JW sends Hagerstrom to Thailand to help out Jorge.

Plenty of things happen and I won't try to list them all. The characters are fun to follow and all of them have personal issues and most of them are nasty.
- Radovan held power over a crew responsible for sexual slavery, drugs, kneecapping, rape, murder, smuggling.
- Jorge thinks about how much he loves his sister and nephew but makes empty promises always leaves them in the lurch by going back to prison or fleeing the country. Jorge commits a violent abduction during an escape from the police and thinks, "Ah, that guy's okay, no harm."
- Hagerstrom only married his wife because they both wanted children. He's been hiding his homosexuality for years and hurting himself and those around him.
- Natalie turns a blind eye to her father's dealing easily rationalizes her entry to the family business.
- JW lies to everyone about his background. JW runs a massive money laundering scheme defrauding the government and has his partner murdered to take the blame when JW steals almost all the money from the crooks.

Swedish society is very stratified. The "Svens" are traditional blond Swedes. Arab, African and South American immigrants have trouble assimilating. The Serbs only trust each other. The high society Swedes only trust a few families that have intermarried and socialized for decades.

1. Many ways to launder cash and the crooked accountants are always moving the money from country to country as the laws change. I was thinking what a bunch of weasels, and then realized that the same thing is done here.
2. Gratuitous reference to past novels and film adaptations. I got the feeling Lapidus is also naming legal colleagues in the story, or obviously basing characters off his legal pals.
3. The armed robbery of an armored car depot reminded me of a TV story I saw a few years ago about cash-in-transit robberies in South Africa. The truck guards had revolvers and shotguns against crooks with automatic rifles.
EDIT 4. Social stratification. You cannot enter the high-class social circles with money. Money gets you the business contacts but to belong you need to grow up with everyone, marry into the family, have an uncle who went to school with someone else, a sister who is pals with another person. JW is invited to a moose hunt and he's just a little "off". He smiles too much, pushes a conversation too hard, wears the wrong color shirt, is nervous about table manners.

1 comment:

Ron Scheer said...

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