“You will find yourself utterly engaged from the very first chapter.” —Barry Forshaw, The Independent
“A gritty and worrying yarn … What sets Roslund and Hellström apart is their background of working cons, which comes through almost as a subtle sympathy.” —Jon Wise, The Daily Sport
“This is a frightening story of urban decay and people who have no allegiance except to their “family”—the criminal gang that they aspire to belong to. . . . The impact on the neighbourhood, the gradual removal of services, shops, even protection from the police is documented with relentless detail. . . . It will be a long time before I can forget this book and the picture it paints." —Susan White, Eurocrime
“Filled with drama and tough action, it is as authentic as it is disturbing, taking a peek below the shadows that form what we term a civilized society.” —Ali Karim, Shots
“Suspenseful and at times unexpected, frightening and engaging . . . a skillfully constructed story.” —Monika Silén, Tidningen Kulturen (Sweden)
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Award-winning journalist Anders Roslund and ex criminal Börge Hellström are Sweden’s most acclaimed contemporary fiction duo. Their unique ability to combine inside knowledge of the brutal reality of criminal life with searing social criticism in complex, intelligent plots has put them at the forefront of modern Scandinavian crime writing.
ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR:
Translator Kari Dickson was born in Edinburgh, but grew up bilingual, as her mother is Norwegian. She has a BA in Scandinavian studies and an MA in translation. She currently teaches in the Scandinavian department at the University of Edinburgh.
She's been living here for so long. It’s mostly voices. Maybe footsteps.
When they pass outside in the long corridor, the fast ones and ones that seem to shuffle along; sometimes they stop by the metal door, as if they’re listening, and she wants to call out to them, ask them to come in and hold her hand. They never do. They carry on down the corridor, steps that drown in the regular beep of the machine and the ticking of the bright lights – beep tick beep tick – she closes her eyes but doesn’t dare to cover her ears – beep tick beep tick – she’s on her own and doesn’t want to be.
Her face, so strange. She’s sixteen, maybe seventeen, or even eighteen.
But she looks old. Whether it’s the pain, fear, or whatever, how the body encapsulates time, lets it settle.
She seems to be lying comfortably, the stretcher she’s been rolled onto is wide and her body is thin. The room is much bigger than the others, the bed and cupboard and table and chair and shower and it’s – even though someone is breathing close by – almost empty. The green overall by her feet, a hand rubbing up and down on the coarse material to warm it up before moving to her young thighs, carefully touching her genitals, fingertips against the head of her uterus, while the other hand keeps a firm hold of the needle, thirty centimetres of plastic tubing against the membrane that is so soft, a clear balloon of water flying, bouncing away. The needle again, again, again, it gives up, breaks.
Footsteps that stop and then vanish.
Someone opens a door further up. Someone else screams, or cries, it’s hard to make out.
She doesn’t have her eyes closed any more. It’s white, everything she sees, white, almost glossy, the naked lights and the machine with its digits and green lines and thin tubes. It’ll take a while, and then a bit more, before her eyes get used to it.
It doesn’t hurt as much anyway. Or she’s just coping with it. Like her period. Exactly the same. But more, more often, longer.
Two of the people in the room, both women, are wearing green overalls. The others, three women and three men, are wearing white overalls that cover dark trousers, dark shoes.
The green ones are standing nearest, the white ones further away, nearly by the wall.
She doesn’t know any of them, at least she doesn’t think she does, or maybe, that woman, she recognises her, she works here, and him, the one who broke down the door and screamed at her, held her to the floor, put her in an armlock.
It’s easier to see now. She turns towards the window. It’s dark outside, cold, the snow is deep; only a few days ago she made an angel out there, lay down on the ground and swept her arms and legs back and forth, back and forth until they shouted at her, came over and grabbed her hands and carried her in. Now there’s an ambulance out there beside her angel, in the middle of the big yard. She tries to get up so she can go over to the window and wave down at the guard who’s waiting by the front of the car, a thick cloud where his breath meets the cold air.
The green overall sighs; the thin body on the stretcher looks so vulnerable, so wrong.
"Come on, you have to lie down."
Sweetie. Not here.
The room the corridor the metal door the bars.
Sweet, sweet, sweetie.
"Did you hear me? You have to lie down."
The green overall’s hands on her arms, chest, thighs, they pull at the hard, brown strap down her back, point the electronic arm at exactly the spot on her stomach where the heartbeat can be heard loudest, one hundred and forty-seven beats per minute, racing, speeding.
She’s almost completely dilated now, nine centimetres, not long now.
Like waves. Like fire.
Something hitting, pressing, forcing. It’s happening inside her body. But she has no control.
She tries to look over at the window again, the bars that are in the way, the round black steel poles across the great sheet of glass. Out there – inside the fence and sharp barbed wire – the searchlights brush the white snow, such a different light compared to ordinary street lamps. The ambulance is still there by the snow angel and the guard is slapping his arms to his sides to keep warm, and if she raises her head a bit more and lets go of the rough edge of the bed, she can see the other car as well, small, grey and completely dark.
The people in green overalls are constantly touching her, talking to her. The people in white overalls are standing still with their backs to the wall.
She’s lying here for security reasons.
That’s what they said.
A risk that she might try to escape.
The waves. The fire. The pressure. The pounding. The force.
The ribcage that is squeezed together as it passes through the birth canal and the water that is forced out and the lungs that are filled with air – the first breath.
It’s not her. She realises now. It’s not her who’s screaming.
Something wet, warm on her stomach. A baby. Her baby. She sees it as the two hands that quickly become four hands lift it up, carry it across the room, through the door, out into the corridor, away.
The woman and the man – the ones holding the baby, who went away with it and then came back without it – are taking off their white coats now, jeans and a jacket underneath, and the woman reaches over for a briefcase, fills in one sheet of paper, then another and another. The others – who’ve been standing farthest away, almost blocking the door, who haven’t spoken at all – are wearing blue under the white. The course material of the prison service uniform, oblong name tags in hard plastic just over their left breast. The men beside them have normal suits on underneath, they’re not wearing uniforms, but she still knows that they’re police; the big one in his forties is a detective inspector and the other one’s a police trainee and not much older than her.
She doesn’t know them, and yet they’ve seen her naked, being emptied.
It had been lying on her stomach, breathing close, a wet mouth.
They should have put a blanket over the red and white skin that was soft and smooth and that no one had touched.
She looks out of the barred window again. The midwife and the nurse open the doors to the white ambulance, a mobile incubator held like a basket between them. The grey private car immediately behind, the couple in jeans and jackets open the front doors and get in, the vehiclesdrive in convoy down the asphalt strip across the yard to the high fence and sharp barbed wire, the gate slowly slides open, then one carries on towards the hospital in Örebro, whereas the other has farther to go, to the family unit in Botkyrka.
She wonders whether the shiny road is slippery, if it’s difficult to drive so far at night.
She’s not said anything for a while now.
Not when they took the baby that was resting on her tummy, not when the two vehicles left Sweden’s top security prison for women.
And it’s as if she can’t bear it any more, the silence.
She turns towards the only person still in the room, the one that’s a policeman in his forties, who held her to the floor, forced her out of her home.
"Did you see?"
He starts, lost in his own thoughts, or maybe he’s just forgotten what her voice sounds like.
She points to her tummy, which is still wet, she should maybe wipe away the clear stuff and the other stuff that’s a bit bloody.
"If it was a boy or a girl?"
With over 4 million copies sold worldwide and translated in 28 languages The New York Times bestselling authors, ex-con Börge Hellström and investigative journalist Anders Roslund combine inside knowledge of the brutal realities of criminal life with searing social criticism in complex, intelligent plots that have propelled them into the forefront of international crime writing. Now in Two Soldiers comes an explosive thriller of drugs, gang warfare, and two fatherless teenage boys on the wrong side of the law.
In a bleak Stockholm suburb where juvenile gang crime is rapidly on the rise, two 19-year-old boys, best friends since third grade and drug addicts since age 9, have spent their young lives establishing a ruthless criminal enterprise—known as the Råby Warriors. With the recruitment of children as foot soldiers, the Warriors are now poised to become the most powerful syndicate in the region.
Twenty years on the force, José Pereira now heads the Organized Crime and Gang Section in Råby. If it was not so deadly, Pereira might appreciate the absurdity of watching boys like Leon and Gabriel, raised on Hollywood images, morph themselves into characterizations of gangsters.
After Leon and Gabriel execute a maximum-security prison break, in which a female guard is kidnapped and feared murdered, Pereira is joined in his investigation by Chief Superintendent Ewert Grens, whom Roslund and Hellström readers will recognize as the maverick detective who never gives up. For Grens, this case awakens troubled ghosts from his past. Soon all four men are on a violent collision course that will irrevocably change all their lives.