Click here to read reviewer Douglas R. Cobb's take on Box 21.
This Swedish thriller takes the reader to the edge, morally and literally, with a two-pronged plot that explores the complications of loyalty and friendship, duty and obligation. In one case, a junkie has stepped on product, marked as a very specific example to the community of dealers and users. In the other case, an extensive network of human trafficking is revealed after the savage beating of a teenaged Lithuanian prostitute brought illegally into the country.
Lydia, brutally whipped and beaten, is taken to the hospital for treatment, but the other resident of the apartment, Alena, escapes in the furor as police knock down the luxury apartment door and subdue the Russian pimp who keeps the girls hostage. The Russian procurer claims diplomatic immunity. Barely conscious, Lydia arrives at the same hospital where the junkie is being treated for an overdose.
These separate scenarios play out in the same hospital, the same detectives working the cases, the junkie critical in the resolution of a long-standing enmity between lead detective Ewert Glens and street enforcer Jochum Lang. Grens has a tragic twenty-five year history with Lang, one he hopes to finally put to rest when the enforcer teaches the junkie the error of his ways but is seen by a witness.
From the first chapter, authors Roslund and Hellstrom establish the brutality endemic to this work, from junkies and pushers to the organized crime that supports the drug trade, from the underground human trafficking network to the officials who accept bribes to turn the other way. In contrast to the stark realities of criminal enterprise, the detectives assigned to the case are as hardcore as those they arrest, especially senior officer Ewert Grens, an enigmatic, angry man who waits patiently for a justice that will never alleviate his loss.
An opportunity with Lang finally presents itself after Langís confrontation with Hilding, the junkie, closure at last in sight. But Grens is distracted when Lydia, the beaten prostitute, accomplishes the unthinkable in her desperation, sending the police department into chaos and immobilizing Grens by her actions. With eerie precision, the authors tell a story that is deeply disturbing, of unraveling relationships and shocking betrayals, of moral conundrums and terrible resolutions. Nothing is black and white in this world, nothing is predictable.
Ewert and his lead detective, Sven Sundkvist, represent law and order, the best interests of the public their responsibility. But life intrudes in unexpected ways, calling an old friendship into question, Grens on the downside of a long career and the grief he carries a constant ache like a phantom limb. In the grey areas of human behavior, those with souls - or remnants thereof - suffer, facing hard decisions and painful consequences while criminals act with impunity. As the men do battle, women like Lydia and Alena, the voiceless victims, are lost in the battle, collateral damage in a manís world.
As one woman seeks to tell her truth, to regain the dignity that has been systematically stripped from her, events conspire to thwart her last wish. In the end the world goes on, the innocent suffer, and the good turn a blind eye to the overwhelming burden of responsibility. A final, shocking twist, and the reader is left to ponder the unpredictability of justice and the nature of truth.