Paganinikontraktet by Lars Kepler, Sweden, 2010

Lars Kepler is the pen name used by the two Swedish writers Alexander Ahndoril and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril, who together have written about five books. Paganinikontraktet or, in English The Paganini Contract, is the second book with the Finnish Detective Inspector Joona Linna at its centre. It is a well written, extremely suspenseful thriller with a scope that includes everything from political and international intrigue, professional assassins, high-speed police chases, arson, unexplained deaths and a terrifying, unbreakable thread that slowly emerges as the common denominator tying everything together.

According to legend, Paganini entered a contract with the devil where he sold his soul in order to realize his greatest wish: to be able to play the violin better than anyone else. Those caught up in the modern-day version of this contract are forced to reveal both their greatest wish and their greatest nightmare. In the end, both become intertwined with unbelievably tragic results.

The background of the novel is Stockholm, but place is not as important as the characters and the situations in the story. The pace is fast with the book broken up into short chapters, most of them ending with a hook or a question mark. It is  a book that demands to be read in one sitting, although at almost 570 pages this could be a bit of an ask. The criminal side of the book is extremely well researched and intelligently described; the story is built up in logical steps, and although it may at times stretch reality to its most extreme limits it is always feasible. Moreover, the criminal side of the story is beautifully balanced by descriptions of music that could only come from someone who is well versed in both musical performance and theory.

 Photo of the authors from

Exploring both the dark world of the criminal mind as well as the longing associated with beauty and music, this novel is by no means a run-of-the-mill detective story. It is definitely worth reading.