Arne Dahl’s Bad Blood: An American Serial Killer in Stockholm

Weekly Lizard

Over the past several years, Scandinavian crime novels have staged a massive invasion of the United States, launching a transatlantic literary love affair. But Arne Dahl’s fiendish new novel, Bad Blood, imagines the opposite: an American serial killer infiltrates Sweden, and what follows is anything but a love story.

Bad Blood is the second novel in Dahl’s Intercrime series and follows the A-Unit, a squad within Sweden’s National Criminal Police, as they seek to capture a murderer run amok. This elite group of detectives was established to solve the Power Murders chronicled in the series’ first thriller, Misterioso—but those crimes didn’t prepare them for the brutality of the Kentucky Killer, a serial murderer who has adopted a torture technique previously used only by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War. As the hunt takes the detectives of the A-Unit from Sweden to America and back, they investigate chilling family secrets, international conspiracy theories, and the distinct possibility that the dead may not always stay that way.

There’s plenty of darkness in Bad Blood’s moral universe, but there’s more than a hint of redemption, too. In a striking essay over at Everyday eBook, Andrew Agudo writes:

As expected from a book about catching a killer, Bad Blood often deals with the dark and cold… but Arne Dahl doesn’t live in this bleak corner of humanity. He uses it only as required and writes it honestly; then he moves on. Here, Dahl shows his true worth, as, like all good crime novelists—whether it be Hammett or Chandler, Auster or Lethem—and raises real character and emotion. In the end, Dahl creates a book as powerful as its opening chapter.

What propels the captivating Bad Blood forward isn’t just the frenetic plot but the full-bodied characters that flesh out the A-Unit. Among them are Paul Hjelm, tortured family man; Kerstin Holm, whose failed relationship with another A-Unit member has redrawn the group’s emotional cartography; and Gunnar Nyberg, former steroid-abuser, current choir singer. Depraved serial killers aside, Dahl uses his wit and empathy to show there’s a world worth fighting for—one where the good deeds balance out the bad blood.