Talking Location With .. Venetia Welby – OKINAWA
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.
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
Catch Christian on Twitter
Join Team TripFiction on Social Media: