Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Swedish: "Top Dog" by Jens Lapidus

Swedish: Top Dog by Jens Lapidus. 2018 (English translations. 2017 for Swedish), 9780525431732.

More greatness by Lapidus. I greatly enjoyed Lapidus's Stockholm Noir trilogy and found out about this novel in January.

As in previous novels we follow around several characters. Primary are:
Teddy: reformed gangster. From the Balkans.
Emelie: criminal lawyer with her new solo practice. White Swedish.
Nikola: newphew of Teddy who had been training as an electrician until pulled back into the crook life. Balkan family.
Roksana: supposed to be in college but more interested in parties, hanging with the hip crowd, and Instagram popularity. Family from Iran.

Mix'em all together with a pedophile and sexual slavery ring operated by the super-rich plus some violent gangster turmoil. Emelie is hired by a former victim of the sex ring to help the victim work with the police. Emelie asks Teddy to assist her. Roksana and her roommate find several kilograms of cached drugs in their new apartment and sell it all. Nikola's best friend is a gang member and is murdered and Nikola goes out for revenge.

Things move around quite a bit over a 12 month period as Emelie and Teddy try to figure out the conspiracy hiding the wealthy rapists and Nikola tries to deduce who arranged the murder of his best friend.

Lapidus's constant theme through his novels is the underdog in Sweden.  Lapidus's novels have a range of characters but his sympathies are always with the lower level crooks.  The crooks he sides with are people who are striving to work their way up in life. They want money and status and see the easy life of the wealthy Swedes and want to join.  The crooks are always rationalizing the rotten and violent work they do. Some of the protagonists have bad records of murder, robbery and other serious crimes. I'll greatly dislike some of these people but Lapidus gives us characters we can understand.

Most of the characters are either immigrants or first generation Swedes. There are always plenty of Balkan crooks. Economic trouble and social stigma push people into crime - that is the excuse anyway - as a white-upper class keeps down the poors.

Lapidus is - or was - a Swedish defense attorney. I reckon his work is comparable to George V. Higgins. Higgins was a prosecutor and, I presume, had the same professional experience of working with crooks, sitting in police interviews, and reading all the interrogation transcripts and court documents. Lapidus knows about crooks, writes all about them, and puts us in their corner.

Police corruption is a key theme as well. Lapidus shows the cops through a poor guy's or low-level crook's eyes. The cops harass the poor, are racist, and kowtow to the rich. The few bad apples are plenty bad and on the grift.

1. In Stockholm the suburbs are the ghettos
2. The rich stay rich by being crooks and keeping down the rest - see the recent college cheating furor regarding Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin -
3. Comparable to Charlie Stella's novels because of: high quality, a great sense of place, multiple characters, corruption, loyal crooks screwed by self-serving mob bosses.

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

Parisian suburbs are the ghettos, as well. In some ways, this describes Philadelphia, or at least some swathes of the outying neighborhoods of this geographically Very Large city (some of the outliers are middle class, none are the expensive part of town, which is mostly Center City and a few relatively nearby nabes). But it might well be common in Europe.