Marked for Revenge by Emelie Schepp

January 4, 2018

Happy New Year! Please note: Marked for Revenge is a direct sequel to Marked for Life. If you haven’t read the first book in this trilogy then it is possible the following review may contain minor spoilers. Consider yourself duly warned…

When a Thai girl overdoses smuggling drugs, the trail points to Danilo, the one criminal MMA-trained public prosecutor Jana Berzelius most wants to destroy. Eager to erase any evidence of her sordid childhood, Berzelius must secretly hunt down this deadly nemesis with whom she shares a horrific past.

Meanwhile, the police are zeroing in on the elusive head of the long-entrenched Swedish narcotics trade, who goes by the name The Old Man. No one has ever encountered this diabolical mastermind in person; he is like a shadow, but a shadow who commands extreme respect. Who is this overarching drug lord? Berzelius craves to know his identity, even as she clandestinely tracks Danilo, who has threatened to out her for who she really is. She knows she must kill him first, before he can reveal her secrets. If she fails, she will lose everything.

As she prepares for the fight of her life, Berzelius discovers an even more explosive and insidious betrayal, one that entangles her inextricably in the whole sordid network of crime.

I finished 2017 with a crime review and it appears the book gods have decided I’ll start 2018 with one as well. I’m a big fan of Scandinavian crime fiction, and I’m glad to see that more and more is making its way to the UK. The latest from Emelie Schepp is the second Jana Berzelius novel, Marked for Revenge.

Though the dynamic between Jana and Danilo entertains, I found myself more engaged with the secondary characters. The police officers are a mismatched group and following them, as they try to juggle their personal lives and also uncover the truth behind the drug smuggling, is fascinating. Mia Bolander, Gunnar Öhrn and Henrik Levin are great as investigators but elsewhere their respective lives are a mess. I love that though, it makes them all seem that much more real. They make mistakes, they rub one another up the wrong way. They are just average people trying to do a difficult job under difficult circumstances. I think you need this counterpoint to balance out the superior skills of Jana. Though I can fully appreciate the reasons why Jana is the way she is, I think that this does make her difficult to fathom at times. Motivated and single of purpose, once she selects a course of action little will stop her from achieving her goals. She is like a blank canvas, emotionally distant. The other characters bring some much-needed humanity to the plot.

Full disclosure, I’ve not read book one of this series and I’ll admit I am always a little unsure of jumping into any story part way through. The good news is, that in this case, the author’s storytelling ability is so confident that any concerns I may have had were quickly quashed. In fact I enjoyed Marked for Revenge so much I plan to check out the first part of the trilogy as soon as my schedule will allow. I’m keen to learn more of Jana’s chequered history.

This novel feels almost like two genres meshed together. The chapters featuring Jana are a high concept action thriller, as Danilo and her play an escalating game of cat and mouse. Meanwhile the chapters following the members of the local law enforcement are more like a standard police procedural. I rather like this approach. It gives the overall narrative a multi-layered style that appeals.

In some respects, our heroine remains a mystery, even to herself, throughout. That said, you can sense things are building towards a final reveal. Marked for Revenge does a fine job of moving Jana’s story forward, while leaving just enough tantalizingly unanswered questions to ensure readers will want to come back for more.

As far as a musical recommendation is concerned, I decided to go with something that I feel captures Jana’s enigmatic nature. The ambient, ephemeral quality of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross feels like the perfect match.

Marked for Revenge is published by HQ and is available now.

One Comment

  • russell1200 January 4, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    How similar in culture is Sweden to Scotland? Scotland I sort of understand, it reminds me of parts of the U.S. Northeast. But Sweden seems odd, like it would be hard to know the cultural setting well enough to understand the story. And a Swedish writer, writing for a Swedish audience would presume you know the deeper culture.

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