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The Andalucian Friend    by Alexander Soderberg order for
Andalucian Friend
by Alexander Soderberg
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Brad Thor dubs The Andalucian Friend ... 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets The Sopranos.' Which sums the story up pretty well except that Alexander Soderberg's heroine comes from an ordinary background, not Lisbeth Salander's dark one.

It all begins when Sophie Brinkmann, a nurse and single mother of teenage Albert who looks 'as if she had been born with a smile in her eyes', feels an attraction to one of her patients, Hector Guzman. What she doesn't know is that Hector is son and heir to Adalberto Guzman, head of an international crime family that is currently engaged in a vicious territorial struggle with a German crime syndicate - Hector was injured in a deliberate hit and run.

We follow Sophie's developing relationship with Hector, and are introduced to someone she once knew and cared for, Jens Vall. We first meet him in Paraguay making an arms deal (which he will come to regret) with Russians. A third story strand reveals ruthless Gunilla Strandberg, a National Crime Intelligence officer who sees Sophie as a tool she can use to bring down the Guzmans. She gathers to herself flawed officers whom she can control (she has Lars Vinge watching Sophie), and her methods are well outside the law.

Jens' deal comes unhinged on the high seas, bringing him into the Guzmans' orbit. Lars becomes obsessed with Sophie, his surveillance morphing into stalking, and falls back into his addiction to prescription drugs. The Germans kidnap Hector and Sophie is pulled in to the action. When she learns that the police have threatened her housekeeper she gets angry, her loyalties uncertain. And when they threaten Albert's future, her fury knows no bounds. She confides in Jens.

When the action accelerates, erupting into violence on all sides, Sophie is right in the middle of it, and ends up with a most unexpected role in subsequent events. The Andalucian Friend is a brilliant read, totally engrossing and highly recommended.

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