Paradise features most of the elements I love the most about crime fiction: a female journalist heroine, and a subeditor to boot! (Hooray!) She is simply true to herself without artifice, knows no other way, and has great instincts for her work without being aware of this on a conscious level — and of course, this is why she tenaciously unravels the convoluted mystery rather than the more experienced types around her.
There are plenty of apparently disparate plot strands that caused me some initial concern, but I soon relaxed: this author is totally in control of pulling them all together and of doing so in a paced manner — full marks on both counts. Then there are politics: the book was written in 2000 but only translated into English from the Swedish last year and published (in England) in paperback this, so the then-contemporary setting of the impact of the break-up of Yugoslavia and associated mafia and military crime has an added perspective for the reader aware of the events of the past five years.
Not only are there European politics but also the politics of journalism and newspapers: the author is an ex-journalist and thoroughly understands the "men in suits" mentality, writing about it well and with insight. Not only are there European and publishing politics but sexual politics: the politically correct Swedish women bankers and TV shows (very funny), and the dilemma of the accountant who becomes, passively yet inevitably, the catalyst for the various snaking strands of the book.
Paradise is an organisation, or channel, by which people can disappear from official records and become "hidden". It was set up for abused women. But is there a more sinister aspect? This is the central dilemma which journalist Annika feels compelled to answer, as she’s not the kind of person who can take it as read. She’s not particularly sympathetic for the first few chapters, but she’s a real person, imperfections included, and certainly grows on you.
Just read the book — if you like crime fiction, you’ll love it. I was delighted to learn afterwards that there are two earlier novels featuring the same character, and a new one due out later this year (in translation, that is). What a find.
And as an addendum, Tribe has picked up on earlier comments about Winter’s Bone, also highly recommended by Sarah Weinman, and has posted his review of the book. It is on my "waiting for paperback" Amazon list.