If you’re having withdrawal symptoms after Henning Mankell wrote finis to the chronicles of Kurt Wallander, remember that it’s possible to take alternative journeys down the mean streets of Swedish cities. If you’re hardy enough to tackle crime narratives drenched in vitriol, grit your teeth and tackle Jens Lapidus’s lacerating Stockholm Noir trilogy: Easy Money is the first volume. Lapidus paints a more cosmopolitan canvas than other writers – not to mention employing a far grimmer and more nihilistic use of the genre, with nary a comforting Swedish copper in sight.
Easy Money has sold phenomenal quantities in Sweden, as well as being successfully adapted into a film. Lapidus has similarly enjoyed much attention for the follow-up Never Fuck Up – a book unlikely to keep its original title when published in the UK. The vividly evoked world of the books is Stygian and uncompromising, with an unvarnished picture of the criminal fraternities of Stockholm, including Hell’s Angels and a variety of Mafia thugs from different racial groups, who unleash massive violence in a series of drug wars.
The other element that shows Lapidus treading a different path from most Scandinavian contemporaries is the flavoursome use of language. Easy Money (translated by Astri von Arbin Ahlander) is written in an in-your-face combination of street argot and new word coinages.
There is a reason why Lapidus knows this criminal language so well. He has another identity, that of a highly successful criminal lawyer with a clientele consisting of precisely those individuals who populate the teeming pages of his novels: perhaps a reason why the books have such cutting-edge veracity.
Lapidus’s protagonists are a desperate bunch. There is Jorge, nurturing grandiose criminal plans; the murderous Mrado, who is trying to change his life, principally by cutting down on the number of homicides he commits; and the hapless JW, who has fond notions that he can deal with the dangerous people who are now his associates. All three are looking for the most painless way to line their pockets, but are forcibly reminded that "easy money" has a price to be paid in blood.