What begins as a challenge to a slacker on the way home from a weekend of partying, an invitation to be part of a “game,” accelerates to a drama that pits the gamer against his unknown director. It also involves his sister, a member of the Stockholm Security Police, in a scenario that can potentially impact her career and cause great harm to those she is sworn to protect, each character moving at odds to the other.
Henrik “HP” Pettersson lives the life of a drifter, frittering his time away with equally directionless friends, wasting hours before his TV or smoking pot, his future compromised since a stint in jail that arose from a tragedy involving his sister years before. The two have never discussed the incident or their feelings about its resolution, each going about their separate lives and meeting only occasionally, usually when HP needs another handout to get by. As dedicated as Rebecca Norman is to her career with the Security Police, HP is equally committed to his way of avoiding life.
So when a sleek cell phone left on a seat in the train he is riding catches his attention, Henrik can’t resist snatching it up. If nothing else, he can sell it and make a little money. To his surprise, the phone turns on with a series of yes/no questions, slowly seducing HP into playing a “game’ where he will perform and film an action and later be paid a certain amount equal to the value of his bravado. After the first “stunt,” HP is hooked, barely disturbed when the phone addresses him by name as he eagerly views his actions on video over and over. Each assignment requires assignments, often skirting the edges of the law. Though Henrik worries a bit about the acceleration of his actions, he isn’t too concerned until Rebecca is peripherally involved. Still, he can’t—won’t—quit.
Rebecca has her own problems, the effort of denying a past trauma requiring a concentrated effort, especially when anonymous notes begin appearing in her locker. In her rigidly disciplined life, Rebecca’s only deviance is the casual sexual relationship she has with a man she keeps at a distance, the way she likes it. All her energy is focused on her job and a number of assignments allowing her to prove her mettle to her bosses. Increasingly these assignments, usually accompanying special visitors to Stockholm safely from one destination to another, become chaotic scenes as outsiders interrupt with violent demonstrations. As Rebecca’s assignments become more dangerous, so do Henrik’s forays on behalf of the Game.
De La Motte builds the tension between the parallel events experienced by brother and sister. Realizing how deeply he is involved and how impossible it is for him to escape the Game’s network, HP turns to Rebecca when all else fails. Eventually both are caught in a web of deceit with no way out and dire circumstances for HP if he talks about his recent adventures. What began as a lark, an ego-building exercise for a loner, has escalated into a dangerous path, one he breeches at his own risk. What was once exciting and fun has turned into a nightmare, one that may hurt his sister, innocently pulled into a mess of his creation.
Tapping into contemporary tech savvy realities, the author bases his escalating scenario on actions committed in anonymity, acts that at first appear innocuous but grow more destructive with each new assignment. The faceless, voiceless phone, once so sleek and seductive, becomes an instrument of violence, even death. Whether either HP or Rebecca has the ability to evade the menace that has entered their lives remains to be seen: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”