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As usual, the protective waistcoat seemed far too heavy for her. Amanda dropped it on the ground as soon as she stepped through the door of the base in Mazar-e Sharif. Under her uniform jacket, the waistcoat fit like a second skin, but every time Amanda wore it for a few hours, it reeked of a mixture of old and new sweat. Amanda undid the Velcro fastenings and stretched her back, vertebra by vertebra. …
“How are you?”
“As soon as I’ve showered off the mud and blood and got a few hours of beauty sleep, I’ll be fine.” …
“Two Swedish diplomats have disappeared in Kabul …”
“They’ve been missing for seven or eight hours now. They are said to have left the embassy in an armoured car with a local driver. However, no one has seen or heard from them since they last reported their position – they were at some place with M and then once or twice north of Kabul …” …
Abducted? Kidnapped? She hadn’t expected anything like that when she accepted the assignment in Afghanistan. …
With her index finger, she followed the roads from Massoud Square in a northerly direction. In seven or eight hours they could well have reached Mazar-e Sharif. Even as far as Pakistan. She hoped for the former. Pakistan’s virtually lawless border area would be more difficult for a negotiator.
from: Vier Tage in Kabul
(my own translation)
Foreign Assignments and the Home Front
What is a female detective inspector from Sweden’s National Crime Squad doing in Afghanistan?
She works as a consultant for the Afghan military to set up a special operations force, which does not rule out the possibility of her becoming involved in combat operations. However, her speciality is negotiation techniques, i. e. entering into negotiations with kidnappers and investigating them.
This is why she is called in when two Swedish embassy staff members disappear in Kabul. Just as she is later asked to investigate in the Balkans when a Swedish police officer who was advising the local police disappears in Kosovo. Amanda, who worked in the Balkans a few years ago, travels to Pristina with a colleague to investigate.
At first I thought I was dealing with a Swedish Homeland adaptation, but despite the exotic setting, cases quickly develop and lead back to Sweden. People are murdered in cold blood under the supposed shield of “terrorism”, because there is always a lot at stake: money, honour, reputation, the future.
We read novels set in an unusual environment. A lot of things happen abroad when Swedish officials are working on behalf of the state. When something happens to them, the Swedish police become active and go looking for them. The local forces only play a subordinate role. Everything is top secret, because the Swedish authorities first assume that it is a matter of actions by local fighters (aka terrorists) – I don’t need to mention the keywords Afghanistan, Balkans … no need not be repeated here.
Amanda was in the armed forces and is now in the police force. Her speciality is negotiating in kidnapping cases, but she can also fight. She can handle weapons and much more. Even as a counsellor, theoretically without combat missions, she doesn’t live an easy, carefree life without worries – especially not abroad.
Officers who are sent abroad are normally assumed to be outstanding representatives of their guild, specially trained, hand-picked. That is the idea. In reality, however, they are human beings, ordinary people with preferences, flaws, desires and criminal energy. Because of their position abroad meaning that opportunities arise without much exertion to pursue their own interests, to line their own pockets, to try to get into big business. Keyword: narcotics. And then suddenly something goes wrong. Somehow. At some point. With collateral damage.
Amanda, alone or with a colleague, then gets to work to bring light into the darkness, find the missing people and bring them back as safe as possible. Her investigations are not easy, especially as not everyone around her is necessarily interested in clearing everything up because, as already mentioned, there are many skeletons in the closet. And there are even closets as far away as in Sweden.
Even in Sweden, not everyone – police, military, ministries – is interested in clearing up everything without reservation, because it could cost the exposed participants their heads or at least put a stop to their careers for the time being. As everything is always top secret, it is of course not difficult to obstruct investigations or steer them in the wrong direction. But Amanda and her colleagues have experience in this field and won’t let up.
During her adventure in Afghanistan, Amanda realises that she is pregnant. She has an affair with a Stockholm public prosecutor who is married with children. He is not thrilled that he is to become a father again and ends the relationship – by text message. Amanda, in her mid-thirties, doesn’t think about abortion and becomes a mother of twins.
… and two years after her deployment in Afghanistan, she finds herself in the Balkans. So a lot has happened in Amanda’s private life, but she is still single with two small daughters. It’s not easy for her to get started after parental leave, but she bites through, as always.
… and she still doesn’t have it easy in her job. The cases are fast-paced, lots of action, lots of adrenalin flowing.
Somehow I hope that the series continues in the same way.