Books Read in 2015 19. The Swimmer – Joakim Zander (contains spoilers.)

Genre: Spy Fiction

Narrative Style: Third person from various perspectives interspersed with a first person narrative which details the past.

Rating: 3/520660867

Published: 2014

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: Klara Walden doesn’t suspect what she might be getting into when her ex boyfriend, Mahmoud Shammosh, gets in touch with her. Suddenly, she is in the depth of a political scandal that people are willing to do murder over and she is fighting for her life. On the other side of the world, a retired spy tells his story, hoping that he will never have to involve himself in Klara’s life. 

I enjoyed the start of this book quite a lot. It was pacy and the chapters from different points of view kept me guessing as to what was happening. There were hints about torture, terrorism and government cover ups, all of which seemed interesting. I couldn’t quite work out how the first person narrative would join with the present day scenario but it was clear that they would link up.

For me, the narrative started to disappoint when Mahmoud was shot. Not that this didn’t fit with the type of story but he was one of the more interesting characters in the novel and I felt that the story struggled a bit without him. (He had just revealed to Klara that he was actually homosexual. He was then killed off almost immediately as if there was no longer any space in the narrative for him now that he didn’t comply with the masculine presumption of such a genre.) Klara then had to continue on her own and she suddenly becomes this amazing super spy, following leads and avoiding the authorities. This is especially unlikely as it is her stupidity in trusting another ex that brings the authorities down on them and causes Mahmoud’s murder.

I haven’t read much spy fiction but what I have read always seem to have these moments of naivety that bring the authorities and those on the run into conflict. I can see why this is necessary but find it a little irritating as it means the characters swing between naivety and guile in a way that is less than convincing.

The end of this novel was also unconvincing. I felt that the storylines were building up to an almighty climax but in the end it was more of a damp squib. The spy – Klara’s father – saves her life and so is no longer useful in narrative terms so he is killed off. George – who has been kidnapped by the bad guys as he is able to speak Swedish – suddenly manages to escape and is also involved in saving Klara. I was never particularly convinced by this narrative strand but his steering of a boat in a terrible storm to just the right island stretched my disbelief to the very limit. After all this, Klara decides not to reveal the information but to keep it secret. Again, I understand the reasons for this but it still seemed desperately disappointing.

All in all, I think this is a genre I am going to avoid in the future for much the same reasons that I don’t watch these sort of films. The action moves the story and I have to admit, I prefer things that are character driven. I have trouble suspending my disbelief and I felt I would have liked more psychological investigation. It was’t a terrible book just ultimately not for me.


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