Backstory Book Review: Box 21

I was on a roll reading the Steig Larsson trilogy. I enjoyed the series and so I decided that maybe I was a suspense reader. I went to the library’s website to see if it would suggest other authors similar to Larsson so I could keep my reading on a suspense, get-‘em-in-the-end roll. NoveList suggested Anders Roslund stating “Anders Roslund and Stieg Larsson are Swedish writers of literary thrillers/mysteries. They both write darkly compelling, gritty, violent tales of twisted crime – rape, crimes against children, and the like. Their stories are not for the faint of heart, but they attract a wide readership nonetheless.” So I took a chance and checked out  Box 21 because I loved Larsson’s work that much.

Box 21 by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

This book is definitely not for the faint of heart. Lydia and Alena are two teenagers lured to Sweden from Lithuania with the promise of a better life. Once in Sweden both girls are forced into prostitution.

A sad opportunity frees them from the brothel. Lydia is beaten savagely by their pimp and when the police arrive on the scene, she is taken to the hospital and Alena flees the scene. Once she recovers from surgery, Lydia decides the abuse will stop by any means necessary and formulates a plan to kill herself and the Swedish policeman who helped insure her and Alena’s enslavement. While investigating the motive behind the murder/suicide, two policemen are forced to decide if they will expose their deceased colleague.

The book is dark. It ignited something inside of me that was very uncomfortable. The description of what both girls had to endure in the loft in Sweden with their clients and at the hands of their pimp is disturbing. When both policemen decide to destroy evidence and thwart the investigation, it made me angry and feel that it supported the cycle of allowing crimes against people with little power to continue. A surprise twist near the end of the book made the policemen’s decisions to protect their own pointless.

If I had to guess, I would think that Roslund and Hellstrom wrote this book to expose a serious problem in eastern Europe and hopefully make it something that more people consider doing something about. It engaged me and made me feel like I should do something, even if I don’t know what. To me, that’s the sign of a good book. I recommend the book with reservations: if you can’t stomach the darker side of society, leave it on the shelf.

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