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Dark Swedish thriller set in Stockholm

22nd September 2021

Hell and High Water by Christian Unge, a dark Swedish thriller set in Stockholm. Translated by George Goulding and Sarah de Senarclens.

Dark Swedish thriller set in Stockholm

Scandinoir lives! This is Christian Unge’s debut novel, and it is a cracker. He follows in some famous footsteps. The book is largely set in a major hospital in Stockholm. Christian’s day job is as a senior physician working in a very similar place, so he brings a great authenticity to his location. He also introduces us to a brilliant, if flawed, new heroine: Tekla Berg is an emergency doctor also in such a major hospital, but she is haunted by her own demons. She has a vivid photographic memory which, at times, is useful in her role – but at times overwhelming. She consumes increasing amounts of illegal amphetamines to take the edge of her ever active brain – and try to help her relax, both during the night and increasingly during the day. Her life is not an easy one.

A major fire occurs in a block near to Tekla’s hospital, and she is put in charge of the emergency response – a position that puts her in danger as she rescues a victim with 85% burns from the building. Who is the victim and what does he know of the ‘accident’ that caused the fire? Will he live (given that the prognosis is a 115% likelihood of him dying)? And, for that matter, does everyone want him to live – or would some people prefer he died?

The parallel story is of the Russian controlled organised crime drugs trade in Stockholm. Tekla’s brother is a user and on the fringes of the gang itself. The gang’s Don (‘Vor’ in Russian) is an outwardly respectable businessman. He has two children – one male and one female – who vie to take over his empire as he prepares to step back. The male is a pretty ruthless enforcer in the drugs trade, the female has tried to lead a much more respectable life as an upmarket estate agent. They clash.

The two worlds – organised crime and the hospital – come together with frightening impact as the story unfolds.

Hell and High Water is the first of three Tekla Berg books by Christian Unge. I am already looking forward to reading the second one.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021