A quick look at the bright red cover without much in the way of artwork offers little to the potential reader of The Swimmer (February 2015). But don’t let this cover deter you. This debut by up-and-coming Swedish author Joakim Zander is an incredible, fast-paced spy thriller that takes place mostly in Europe.
It opens with the horrific death of a young mother who was killed by a car bomb while her child’s father watches from afar, holding their infant daughter. The news reports there were two victims in the bombing–a mother and her young daughter. This is just the first of many lies and cover-ups in this novel. Faking his daughter’s death was what the nameless deep cover agent felt was necessary in order to save her from the men who set the bomb; a bomb the American spy believes was meant for him. Unfortunately, as he begins to make amends for abandoning his daughter Klara, she becomes involved in a covert operation involving her ex-boyfriend and professional acquaintances. They must all work together to save each other.
I really enjoyed the heroine of this novel. Klara Waldéen is a strong, resourceful, quick thinker who finds herself in a horrible situation. Despite being sought after by a group of professional spies, she fights…hard. I couldn’t help but cheer her on.
There was a young tech savvy girl named Blitzie whose clever idea helps Klara immensely. I wish this character had more scenes and dialog. There was definitely more to her than was revealed in this novel.
That said, I think what makes this novel so engaging is its characters. Every one of the “good guys” is likeable–even the most loathsome of the bunch. For example, George, another person who semi-unwillingly gets wrapped up in the action, is a despicable person but one who you can’t help feeling bad for when he is held against his will by some rogue American group.
Initially I had trouble keeping track of the shifting times, locations, and foreign names. But after a few chapters, I had a better grasp of it all and the shifts became an integral part of the novel’s excitement. Near the end, one particular time change caught my breath and I couldn’t wait to see how it would all play out.
I highly recommend The Swimmer to those who enjoy spy thrillers, action-packed story lines, and strong female driven novels. I look forward to following Zander’s writing career as well as (hopefully) seeing The Swimmer on the big screen someday.
Reviewed by Libby Bridges
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