Saturday, January 11, 2014

Scandinavian Noir, or Gamer Espionage? Anders de la Motte, BUZZ

Caught up in crime fiction that depends on the Internet? Already a fan of Lisa Brackmann's China-based thrillers and illicit gamer underworld? Have a special place on your shelf for William Gibson's Neuromancer, the speculative fiction that launched cyberworlds and serious online gaming?

Here's your next tasty work of crime fiction: BUZZ, from Swedish author and politician Anders de la Motte. This is another case where American readers are getting the good stuff later than the Europeans, who've already made the crime trilogy of Game, Buzz, and Bubble into a best-selling series. Thank goodness, the translators are helping us to catch up.

HP -- Henrik Pettersson, living under multiple aliases -- should have known better. Hiding from the Gamemaster (with good reason), he's been spending his ill-gotten gains in various locations around the world. But when he accepts an invitation to an Arab compound of sin and sexuality, not only does he indulge heavily in both, but he gets so stoned that he puts his fragile constructions completely at risk. Soon he's in the hands of the police, accused -- with convincing evidence -- of having murdered the woman who seduced him there.

In flashes of insight, bits of e-mails, and alternating chapters that reveal the setup that HP's sister Rebecca has fallen into, the tense and powerful net that's trapping HP becomes clear. His return to Europe, under yet another alias, can't be good news, can it? After all, the Game is likely to catch up with him there, and the consequences could be fatal -- at least.

If you're able to fit in a reading of Game before you tackle Buzz, so much the better. But de la Motte does a delicate tease of reveals, making clear the most important parts of what happened in the earlier volume, and it works well to jump straight into this new one. Tautly plotted, cunningly arranged, and smoothly translated by Neil Smith (whose only flaw is a slightly ragged edge between Americanizing the text and leaving it with a British tang), this is a postmodern thriller with sturdily familiar narrative and an enduring attachment to the badness of bad-boy betrayal. A hearty thank-you to Atria for bringing the book to American readers.

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