Mysterious Book Report The SwimmerThe Swimmer by Joakim Zander

Harper Collins, $27.99, 417 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-233724-5

International thrillers—good old spy yarns—have long been favorites of many readers around the world. Personally, I never tire of them. It seems however, that all the great espionage writers have passed . . . novelists like John Gardner, Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Steig Larsson, Graham Green and Eric Ambler have all left us and perennial favorite John LaCarre is eighty-four and slowing down. I’ve read and enjoyed all of those and others like them, who’ve brought us such memorable characters as James Bond, George Smiley and Jason Bourne . . . and who could forget the honorable adversaries Jack Ryan and Captain Marko Ramius in The Hunt for Red October? Now, although some of our favorites can no longer bring us new adventures, the good news is that there’s a whole new group of great novelists rushing to fill the void. Writers like Jason Matthews, (Red Sparrow), Frederik Olsson, (Chain of Events), Adam Brookes, (Night Heron)—who’ve all been reviewed here—have each penned memorable first novels of spy versus spy thrillers and are expected to write many more in the future. In MBR number 208, we’ve been fortunate, and found another, incandescent young espionage writer whose debut novel has already been translated into a number of different languages and sold in more than twenty-eight countries.

The Swimmer, by Joakim Zander is the story of a spy with no name who’s operated deep undercover in all the hotspots of the Islamic world, and who’s considered to be one of the deadliest human instruments of the CIA. Back in 1980, a car bomb that was meant for him went off in Damascus, Syria. It killed his young wife and left him with a newborn baby girl that he was unable to cope with, and abandoned three days later at the door of the Swedish Embassy; an act for which he’s been unable to forgive himself. Now, it’s thirty years later, and Klara Waldeen, the daughter he never knew, is the executive assistant to the Swedish Minister of Trade at the EU, in Brussels, Belgium. Klara, still only a novice in the give-and-take, dealing, double-dealing and back-stabbing of the political arena, innocently takes possession of a laptop computer in a moment of acute stress and finds herself at the center of a deadly manhunt with life or death consequences. The computer contains information sensitive enough to start a world war, and agents of several countries are in hot pursuit . . . prepared to pay anything, do anything or kill anything to possess it.

The denouement of the novel comes on a snowy Christmas Eve, when Klara and the father she never knew meet up on a small, isolated island in the Swedish archipelago where only one of them will survive . . . and the reader will be glued to the page with anticipation of the unexpected conclusion. If you, like me, are an enthusiastic reader of spy thrillers, you won’t want to miss this rare opportunity to get in at the beginning of an awesome new author’s body of work. He’s going to be a superstar!


John Dwaine McKenna