It’s the last stop on the official blog tour to celebrate the release of Christoffer Carlsson’s debut Scandinavian crime thriller, The Invisible Man From Salem. If you’ve been following the tour, I hope your curiosity has been whetted to discover the world of Swedish detective Leo Junker for yourselves, through the reviews and features posted this week. To tempt you further, here is an extract where we gain an insight into the socially deprived area- Salem- where Junker spent his formative years, and which so influences the events in the book.
“I remember this, that on the outskirts of Salem there were nice detached houses and small row houses with well-kept lawns, and when you went past in the summer you’d smell barbecued meat. The closer you got to the train station, the more the little houses gave way to heavy concrete blocks and tarmac, graffiti. Young and old, small-time criminals, teenagers and hooligans, electro fans and ravers and the kids into hip-hop — this was where we all hung out, and I remember a song I used to hear a lot, a sharp voice that sang about a head like a hole, black as a soul. We sat on benches and drank spirits, and tipped over soft-drink vending machines, and ones with sweets in, and sprayed them with paint. Quite a few others got done for threatening behaviour, assault, and vandalism, but we always got away with it by running into the shadows that we knew so much better than the people who were chasing us. In the adults’ eyes, we were all aspiring gangsters.
Things had been bad in Salem for a long time, but not this bad. Even Salem Church had been broken into, and they’d had a party inside. I heard about it at school — I hadn’t been there myself, but I knew who’d done it, because they were in the parallel class and we did Swedish together. A few weeks later, the church was broken into again, and they hung a Swedish flag the size of a cinema screen with a big black swastika on it. No one could see the point of it — maybe because there wasn’t one.
Salem. At school we were taught that it had once been called Slaem, which was a compound of two words meaning sloes and home. Then, at some time in the seventeenth century, the name was changed; no one really knew why, but the teachers and local historians liked the notion that it had something to do with the biblical Salem, as in Jerusalem. It made Salem sound like a peaceful place, since the word means ‘peace’ in Hebrew — a place our parents had moved to, long before it got this bad, in search of a happy life.
And in our blocks on the estate we would stand at the windows when we couldn’t go out, observing each other at a distance. Once we were out, we kept away from people who could hurt us. We were drawn to those like us, like me and John, who hung around outside the entrances to each other’s blocks when we had nowhere to go but didn’t want to go home; in the distance you could hear shouting, screaming, and laughter, and car alarms echoing through the night.”
Christoffer Carlsson has published four critically acclaimed novels and was awarded Best Crime Novel of the Year in 2013 by the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy for his first book in the Leo Junker-series, The Invisible Man from Salem. The second installment in the series, The Falling Detective, was released in August 2014. Follow on Facebook and on Twitter @CCarlssons
Late summer. Police officer Leo Junker is awoken in the middle of the night by bright police lights flashing outside his bedroom window. His curiosity draws him downstairs to the shelter located on the ground floor of his apartment building where a young woman has been found murdered. Though on a leave of absence from the police force due to a failed mission where he fatally shot a colleague, Leo bluffs his way onto the crime scene. He examines the dead woman and sees that in her hand she is clasping a thin gold necklace – a necklace Leo recognizes. Leo, who is struggling to control both his feelings for his ex-girlfriend Sam and his addiction to prescription drugs, sets out on a rouge investigation that quickly becomes personal as the murderer’s motives force Leo to confront ghosts from his past.In a parallel narrative, we are told the story of Leo’s youth. He was raised in Salem, a blue-collar suburb of Stockholm, where social and racial tensions run high and children are forced to grow up fast. Leo comes to know a boy named Grim and his sister Julia, two people who will forever change his life…