Swede’s tril­ogy a Buzz-wor­thy page-turner

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - By John Sul­li­van

IF there was any doubt af­ter last De­cem­ber’s The Game, the se­cond and third books of An­ders de la Motte’s stun­ning, one-step-be­yond de­but tril­ogy con­firm his sta­tus as a master ma­nip­u­la­tor. With Buzz and Bub­ble (both HarperCollins, 320 pages, $18), the for­mer Swedish cop and se­cu­rity ex­pert for For­tune 500 com­pa­nies dou­bles down on the alt-re­al­ity tri­als of Hen­rik (HP) Pet­ter­son, a charm­ing slacker with delu­sions of fame and for­tune. Re­cruited by a mys­te­ri­ous group that taps so­ci­ety’s dis­af­fected for in­creas­ingly sin­is­ter “as­sign­ments,” with shared view­ings, rat­ings and re­wards, HP soon comes into con­flict with his sis­ter Re­becca, who heads a Swedish po­lice bodyguard unit for politicos. Buzz finds HP anony­mously and com­fort­ably en­sconced in Turkey af­ter es­cap­ing the Game 14 months ear­lier. But has he? Para­noid that the Game is still ma­nip­u­lat­ing (or at least mon­i­tor­ing) his life — es­pe­cially af­ter he’s sus­pected of mur­der­ing a comely IT millionaire in Dubai — HP in­fil­trates a Swedish so­cial-me­dia mar­ket­ing firm to find out how and why he was framed. But it’s the tightly wound Re­becca’s rest­less per­sonal demons that drive the book’s re­lent­less pace, with an on­line stalker sab­o­tag­ing her ca­reer in a man­ner that smacks of the Game. A year later in Bub­ble, an in­creas­ingly para­noid HP is in hid­ing from both the law and the Game, while Re­becca is on leave from her po­lice job, work­ing for an IT com­pany and even more de­pressed and full of self-doubt. De­cid­ing to make one fi­nal ef­fort to ex­pose the in­sid­i­ous Game Master, HP dis­cov­ers more se­crets with links to mas­sive per­sonal-data col­lec­tion, his own fa­ther and even a royal Swedish wed­ding. Both books start slowly but soon crank up to break­neck speed, pound­ing down to quite an un­pre­dictable cliffhanger in Buzz and an even more un­fore­seen fi­nale in Bub­ble, where re­al­ity and self-delu­sion mix de­li­ciously. Em­ploy­ing al­ter­nat­ing, some­times­jan­gly nar­ra­tives, de la Motte builds cat-and-mouse con­nec­tions be­tween the par­al­lel HP and Re­becca sto­ry­lines that both in­fu­ri­ate and com­pel. With themes rang­ing from fam­ily al­le­giances and val­ues to how ma­nip­u­la­tion of In­ter­net con­tent threat­ens the per­cep­tion of truth in the dig­i­tal world, the Game Tril­ogy is a dis­con­cert­ing, thought-pro­vok­ing thrill-ride. In Ukraine’s geno­ci­dal famine years, a bud­ding Stal­in­ist “pi­o­neer” in­forms on her own fa­ther and other vil­lagers, and is in turn be­trayed by her jeal­ous sis­ter. Eight decades later, a young refugee, con­victed of try­ing to kill her abu­sive Dan­ish fi­ancé af­ter flee­ing the mur­der of her jour­nal­ist hus­band in Kiev, es­capes cus­tody in a fran­tic bid to re­unite with her ail­ing daugh­ter. Now, some­one is try­ing to kill both of them, and only a Dan­ish Red Cross nurse, a skep­ti­cal Dan­ish cop and the mother’s own fierce love for her child stand in the way. At first blush, it might be tempt­ing to con­clude that Death of a Nightin­gale (Soho, 368 pages, $27) is a bleak fem­i­nist tract writ­ten by women, about women and for women. That would be a big mis­take. True, this is a wince-in­duc­ing tale of four women and a young girl linked by gen­er­a­tions of bru­tal­ity, suf­fer­ing, jeal­ousy, be­trayal and greed, con­veyed with un­remit­ting Scan­di­na­vian grim­ness by the Dan­ish writ­ing duo of Lene Kaaber­bol and Agnete Friis. But it’s also a first-rate lit­er­ary mys­tery that never for­gets that the story comes first. Har­row­ing and mov­ing, it’s one that will stay with you. As­so­ciate Ed­i­tor John Sul­li­van runs the Free Press Au­tos, Homes and Travel

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