Any Means Necessary is a dark, nihilistic slice of Nordic Noir. Off the rails and outrageous, this novel doesn’t obey boundaries. It’s also wicked and at times wicked funny. Rogneby is a distinct and original voice in Scandinavian hard-boiled crime fiction.

It’s all about Leona: Leona Lindberg thinks she has things under control; she’s dealing with her gambling addiction pretty well and she did manage to stay out of jail for her part in a bank robbery. Of course, that meant framing a colleague, but he was after her too so that alright. Her therapist, on the other hand, thinks Leona may have psychotic tendencies; she’s not wrong. Leona is grieving for a son who died only a few months ago, coping with a marriage break up and the custody wrangle for her daughter, Beatrice. She needs a lot of money fast to pay off a French gangster and a would-be suicide bomber, who only managed to blow his legs off, will only talk to her, not the security services.

How often do you pick up a novel that says it has a ‘unique’ central character? Quite often I’d imagine. The thing is with Any Means Necessary I think it’s actually true. Leona Lindberg is unlike anyone else in crime fiction: A thoroughly bad person, a totally corrupt female cop, with little in the way of redeeming features. Her therapist thinks she may be deluded but Leona’s account of her actions and her plans make it perfectly clear that she knows when she is being bad – rotten to the core, actually. She’s calculating, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t over-reaching and wildly optimistic about her plans, that’s what kicks off all the fun. I find Leona refreshing, but you will have to be a fan of the darkness in the soul to agree.

Any Means Necessary is the sequel to the highly acclaimed The Die is Cast, which demonstrated Rogneby’s originality (spoiler alert: this paragraph discusses that novel). A naked and bloodied seven-year-old girl walks into a bank in Stockholm and walks out with several million Kronor. Leona Lindberg, inveterate gambler, part of the Violent Crimes Unit investigates, but get this – she organised the whole thing in the first place!

Several months later, Lindberg is in therapy, she has avoided jail but is suffering the trauma of losing her son, Benjamin, to Crohn’s disease. Her marriage has fallen apart and she rarely has time to see her daughter, Beatrice. Her sessions with the therapist are sometimes as revealing for what she doesn’t say as much as what she says. There is one major problem she needs to deal with. In order to stay out of jail she had to pay the fall guy the money she made from the bank robbery not to stir things up, so she is broke. That’s not the problem – money launderer Armand doesn’t care that she doesn’t have the money, he wants his cut and he isn’t going to wait long to get it and he knows some nasty people. Leona will just have to work up a few money making schemes, this is one area where Leona can be very creative.

Meanwhile, the nation is transfixed as a bomber blows himself up out side the National Parliament. As he presses the trigger his exploding vest slips, he doesn’t kill himself, he does however, blow his legs off and is left badly burned. He won’t talk to SĀK, Swedish intelligence, but he will open up to officer Leona Lindberg. Leona is reluctant but this isn’t a matter of choice. The patient/bomber Fred Sjöström is into a lot of self justification but, slowly, Leona realises it’s not over.

David turned snitch to avoid a jail term, he got sent down anyway. Now he works for police handler, Sven, and has infiltrated the Blood Family. They are beginning to trust David with jobs but can he trust Sven? He’s about to stumble into one of the most daring crimes in Swedish history.

Leona always has a plan; unfortunately, Armand the money launderer, Fred the bomber and any one of specially chosen criminal partners can screw it up for her, she will need to be at her devious best to pull it off. Of course, nothing works like it does on paper and mayhem and chaos ensue.

Any Means Necessary is driven by the action and that centres around Leona. I imagine Rogneby, who used to be a cop, gathering all these ideas about how crooks could have been smarter, could have got away with it, if only they’d thought about it more, and spilling them into her novels. There are little gems of criminal wisdom peppering the novel. It’s very inventive.

Any Means Necessary is as creative and dastardly as Steig Larsson’s Millennium trilogy but pacier and more sensitive to modern sensibilities. The hero of the novel, who is also the principal villain, is naughty but so good.

Paul Burke 4/4

Any Means Necessary by Jenny Rogneby
Other Press 9781590518847 pbk Feb 2019