Set in a hot summer in Bromma, Sweden, Geiger begins with a pleasant family scene as sisters, Malin and Lotta, and their husbands, Christian and Petter, return from a holiday in France to collect their children from the grandparents, Stellan (85) and Agneta Broman (69), who have been looking after them for a week in the family home.
As the two families head home and Agneta waves them off, she receives a phone call on the landline and hears a codeword: ‘Geiger’. Things take a dramatic and shocking turn as she takes her gun from its hiding place and shoots her husband in the head. She takes a few items then quickly heads off, taking care not to be seen by anyone. Agneta has been waiting 50 years for this moment. What has caused this horrific act? Is this the event that starts a chain reaction and ends in more deaths?
A police officer called Sara Nowak (44) receives a phone call from Detective Inspector Anna Torhall, her old friend at the police academy, who now works in homicide, telling her about Stellan’s murder. Sara works in street prostitution but, when she was growing up, she was friends with Malin and Lotta and used to spend lots of time at the Broman home, in the days when ‘Uncle Stellan’ was a famous Swedish TV personality who loved entertaining important people at his regular parties. Sara’s mother, Jane, was also a cook and cleaner at the house.
Although it’s not her case, Sara feels compelled to investigate and uncovers information about Stellan from various sources. Sara tries to tell Anna about her suspicions of Stellan’s involvement as a Cold War spy but Anna is dismissive as the police are concentrating their efforts on finding the missing Agneta, who is feared abducted or injured.
Operatives in the intelligence service are also aware Geiger has been activated and that things are starting to kick off after years of inactivity. Something big is happening.
There were some disturbing revelations and the action-packed story zipped along at a fair pace, although I did get a bit confused about some of the Cold War details and the history behind the current events. There’s lots of interesting historical background information and I enjoyed searching online about that and the various Swedish locations mentioned.
I preferred the scenes with Agneta on the run to the more personal and slower scenes with Sara, where we learnt more about her family: husband, Martin, 19-year-old daughter, Ebba, and 14-year-old son, Olle. Sara was a rather volatile character at times and used aggression and violence to get her point across, especially when she confronts the abusive clients of the city’s prostitutes while doing her best to try and protect the women.
The book contains some shocking scenes – violence, torture, rape and sexual imagery – so won’t be for everyone but I felt it was all relevant to the story, if a bit too graphic at times.
Overall, I enjoyed Geiger – the well-plotted story is rather meaty and entertaining and there’s lots of information to get your head around. It’s a fascinating read, full of intrigue and mystery, and lots of secrets, lies and classified information. The characters are well drawn but most of them were rather unlikeable!
I haven’t read a spy thriller for years but I’m not sure why. This was a tense and gripping read, with lots of twists and turns, and I would love to see it on the big screen! I’ve read that it may be the first in a series too so I will eagerly await another book.