There are good reasons why Swedish thrillers have come to be known in the literary world for their dark, eerie nature, usually dealing with the kind of things that make you want to crawl under the blanket and leave the lights on while you are sleeping, things that are very much in contrast to the seemingly orderly and socially advanced society which we believe Sweden to be. The expectations, therefore, of a new Swedish crime writer are that we will get to read some pretty sinister investigation into the dark side of the human psyche. In that sense, at least, the debut novel The Father, by Anton Svensson, does not disappoint. It also does not disappoint in regards to the novelty value, as this is a book that is based on a true story – the kind of story that only an insider would be able to depict – the story of a family that became infamous in Sweden for their string of daring and violent bank robberies.
The Father: Made in Sweden Part 1 by Anton Svensson (a pseudonym for Stefan Thunberg and Anders Roslund) is the story of four brothers, raised by their almost psychopathically violent father, Boris, and depicts the events that led to three of the brothers becoming notorious bank robbers alongside their father, while the fourth – Stefan Thunberg, co-author of the novel – ended up writing about it. The novel deals with the unusual life of the family, which is blighted by their father’s violent episodes, to the eventual forming of the notorious “Military Gang”, who carried out ten daring robberies in Sweden in the early 1990s.
The book delivers an unsettling and insightful depiction of the things that shape us from childhood, and the bonds that work their dysfunction on lives. The depiction of the three brothers and their rationale for their life of crime is interesting, but almost more interesting is the idea of the “one who got away”. While his brothers were being initiated into a life of crime during their teens and then, in their twenties orchestrating bank and armoured van robberies, Stefan Thunberg was going to art school and living independently. While the rest of his family went on to be caught and serve prison sentences, Thunberg went on to become one of Sweden’s best-known scriptwriters, working in film and television, including a TV series of Sweden’s well-known, recently deceased thriller writer Henning Mankell.
No stranger to building plot and action, Thurnberg’s novelisation of his real life crime story also has the ring of something that is written for the screen. The dialogue is fast paced and drives much of the action and the characterisations. The narrative seems patchy and disjointed at times, yet has the compelling quality of the accident about to happen that you cannot tear your eyes away from. It is not surprising that the Swedish bestseller has already been optioned to be made into a movie by Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks. Undeniably engaging and unique, The Father: Made in Sweden Part 1 looks likely to capture a large readership outside of Sweden, who will be waiting in anticipation for the next instalment of this family saga of crime and violence.