Clichés like “a page turner” and “unputdownable” are unavoidable in a review of this extraordinary, gripping, dark novel which is – yes, here goes –  a page turner and is absolutely unputdownable.

This hefty novel (beautifully translated from the original Swedish) grips you from the very first page, and keeps you on tenterhooks until the final seconds of the book.  And as for the moment when you finally understand the significance of the Three Seconds of the title, well…

As ever with a crime thriller, it’s difficult to discuss the plot without spoiling everything, but this complex story centres upon a man called Piet Hoffmann, a man who hides his dark side and his even darker life from the young family whom he adores with a passion.

The dichotomy between a man prepared to commit crimes and a father whose love for his little boys almost moves the reader to tears is beautifully and fiercely written.


I really cannot in all honesty tell you any more about what Piet does, or the book will be spoiled for you, but the inter-mingling of his tough, dangerous, secret, often sordid professional life with his total adoration of his wife and children is a strong leitmotiv throughout this gripping book.


Because his work is so dangerous, Piet dreams constantly of his cocooning family life.


I have never been to Sweden, so the names and places were totally unfamiliar, but so strong is the sparse, elegant writing that as I read, I could visualise the streets of the small town with the plain church tower, the dusty offices, the empty roads in the pre-dawn.  You can taste that stewed office coffee, and visualise the cling-wrapped tasteless sandwiches and stale pastries that are found for sale in 24 hour petrol stations.

There is a brilliantly strong cast of characters, both good and evil, with many of the former wrestling with their consciences as they try to tackle crime.

Men like Inspector Ewert Grens, bad tempered, heart-broken, prickly, avoided by most of his colleagues :


He leads a lonely, solitary life, burying himself in police work to avoid his empty home and his nightmarish memories :



This is a superb book, way better than this review would indicate, but I can’t bear the idea of inadvertently spoiling any of the tension for you.  And be prepared for nervous tension, some sickening brutality at times, and the feeling of nudging your way through the many layers of this book, just as the good detective Ewert Grens has to do.

Personally and enthusiastically recommended.

If you would like to buy the book, after reading this review, just click on the link below :


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