The Invisible Man from Salem by Christoffer Carlsson, Book Review

Christoffer Carlsson The Invisible Man from Salem ReviewThe Invisible Man From Salem Synopsis

A Leo Junker Case, Book 1

In the final days of summer, a young woman is shot dead in her apartment. Three floors above, the blue lights of the police cars awaken disgraced ex-officer Leo Junker. Though suspended from the force, he can’t stay away for long. Bluffing his way onto the crime scene, he examines the dead woman and sees that she is clasping a cheap necklace — a necklace he instantly recognises.

As Leo sets out on a rogue investigation to catch the killer, a series of frightening connections emerge, linking the murder to his own troubled youth in Salem — a suburb of Stockholm where social and racial tensions run high — and forcing him to confront a long ago incident that changed his life forever.

Now, in backstreets, shadowed alleyways, and decaying suburbs ruled by Stockholm’s criminal underground, the search for the young woman’s killer — and the truth about Leo’s past — begins.

Translated from the original Swedish by Michael Gallagher

(Scribe Publications)

Genre: Crime-Detective, Drama, Thriller, Mystery, Translations

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What I particularly like about Scandinavian crime novels is their focus on the psychological — the stories are often just as much about the person investigating the crime as the crime itself. In The Invisible Man From Salem Christoffer Carlsson has taken that focus on his protagonist (‘the seeker of truth’) to a whole new level.

We didn’t grow up thinking to question the way of things. We grew up knowing that no one would give us anything if we weren’t prepared to take it from them.

The nonchalant nature of Leo Junker’s first-person narrative makes this a novel that’s easy to slide into. Although disillusioned and a little self-destructive, his survival instincts honed from a difficult adolescence indicate there is a backstory worth unravelling.

A couple of well-chosen individuals can give you more useful information on a case than three hundred others. The challenge is identifying them, and if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s that: judging whether someone is useful or not. It’s not a trait that makes you well liked, but it’s what I’ve got.

While critical to the denouement, the present-day crime is principally the catalyst for Junker’s exploration of his past, with much of the narrative reflective. Carlsson uses a perpetrators missive interspersed between his protagonist’s reflective passages to gradually ratchet up the tension.

The Invisible Man From Salem is a slow-burning thriller.

A note on the publisher’s choice of packaging for this novel – at first I found the black and white lines striking but quickly felt it inpractical for the back cover blurb –  I found reading consecutive lines of alternating black and white text headache-inducing.

While The Invisible Man From Salem is not without its weaknesses — a couple of character connections seemed a little sketchy to me — Christoffer Carlsson’s intriguing focus on the dramatic development of his protagonist Leo Junker make this author and series one I’d like to follow the progression of.

UPDATE: Book 2 and 3 of the Leo Junker Series have since been published in English, The Falling Detective (2016) and Master, Liar, Traitor, Friend (2017).

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

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About the Author, Christoffer Carlsson

Christoffer Carlsson Photo

Christoffer Carlsson was born in 1986. The author of two previous novels, he has a PhD in criminology, and is a university lecturer in the subject. The Invisible Man from Salem has been a bestseller in Sweden, and won the Swedish Crime Academy’s 2013 Best Crime Novel of the Year award. It is the first in a series starring a young police officer called Leo Junker, and will shortly be developed into a three-season TV drama by StellaNova Film.

Other reviews of The Invisible Man From Salem 

GoodreadsJust A Guy That Likes To Read, ReadingsCrime Fiction Lover

* My receiving a copy of The Invisible Man from Salem from Scribe Publications for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.