The Father
Anton Svensson
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Buy *The Father* by Anton Svenssononline

The Father
Anton Svensson
592 pages
April 2016
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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This stunning novel recreates an actual crime spree: a series of audacious robberies in 1990s Sweden, the terrorism of a violent father planting the seeds of an exceptional criminal enterprise--a band of brothers bound by blood. Written by two authors, Stephen Thunberg and Anders Roslund under the pseudonym of Anton Svenson (the melding of their two voices seamless), this tale describes the experiences of three brothers and a friend as they use the brutal lessons of childhood to accomplish the unthinkable, loyalty and mutual respect key to their success. Finally free of the brutal man who dominated their childhoods and savaged their mother, Leo, Felix, and Vincent include longtime friend Jasper in the carefully planned and perfectly executed robbery of a local armory. So begins a storied saga of bank robberies that stymies authorities--no records, no fingerprints--a gang able to disappear after each crime without a trace: “A group of criminals who used assault as an instrument… and would do it again.”

The elusive criminals are obsessively tracked by Kronoberg detective John Bronks, whose history parallels that of the mastermind behind the crimes, Leo Duvnjac. Leo, the oldest brother, has learned the harsh lessons of a drunken, bullying father, ultimately choosing control over brutality to reshape the men’s fortunes. A detective, John Bronks, is all too familiar with domestic violence and its bloody consequences, burdened by a painful relationship with his own father, “someone he’d thought about more dead than he had when he was alive”. Bronks has dealt with hundreds of cases reflecting the circumstances that have crippled him in his personal life and left him unable to forge a healthy connection with a woman. While Leo brings girlfriend Anneli into his close family circle as a willing accomplice, John is faced with a failed love affair with a coworker as he plunges into the investigation. It is John’s diligence that ultimately leads to a shocking revelation, one puzzle leading to another, two men victims of brutal fathers, one a criminal, one the detective who pursues him.

Moving between then and now (“if now was then and then was now”), the three boys and their mother are terrorized by Ivan Duvnjac, whose very footsteps in the apartment send shivers of fear through an anxious family. As the oldest, Leo bears the brunt of the harshest lessons, his young spirit battered and reshaped to fit his father’s impossible demands, deflecting the man’s rage from the others as best he can. In his mid-twenties, Leo creates a new family, the incipient bank robbers connected by affection, respect and loyalty, driven by Leo’s need to succeed in spite of Ivan but outside the boundaries of society. These young men have survived by their wits, brotherhood steeped in fear and pain, tightly-knit and exclusive. Each successful robbery breeds elation, concentrated strikes confounding police while the criminals disappear: “”You have to dance with the bear if you want to win.”

Leo’s energy, concentration and will drives the band (nicknamed “the Military League” by frustrated police), the core vulnerable only when Jasper fails to rein in his need for attention or Anneli gives in to a simmering resentment of Leo’s psychological withdrawals before a robbery, emotionally available only to his brothers. Ivan, the terrible giant of a father, dominates “then”, his actions reverberating through the lives of those in his power, grown weaker and angrier in “now”. His sons refuse any communication; Ivan's hatred for his former punching bag, Britt-Marie, festers in drunken dreams. His control diminished, he still lashes out at every opportunity, secretly yearning for détente with his sons.

It is a powerful and volatile combination, then and now. The Father is only half of a story to be finished in The Sons, the consequences of such a twisted history yet to be explored.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2016

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