A Swedish security agent is summoned to interrogate a terror suspect held by the FBI—but the prisoner isn’t the only one with something to hide.
The Swede. Written by an insider. Helicopter pilot. Former member of Swedish Special Forces.
Soon to be published in 12 languages. Plus Swedish, of course.
At a remote military base in the Indian Ocean, the FBI is trying to get a prisoner to confess. But the detainee, a suspect in an Islamist-inspired terror attack in the United States, refuses to talk.
Ernst Grip, a Swedish security officer, has no idea why he’s been dispatched to New York City. The FBI agent he meets on arrival, Shauna Friedman, seems to know a little too much about him. And when he arrives at his real destination, the American authorities have just one question: Is their terror suspect a Swedish citizen?
In the process of uncovering the prisoner’s true identity, Grip discovers the man’s ties to a group of other suspects—a ruthless American arms dealer, a Czech hit man, a mysterious nurse from Kansas, and a heartbreakingly naïve Pakistani. The closer Grip gets to the truth, the more complicated the deception becomes. Who is real, and who is leading a double life?
The Swede is an intense story novel about the compromises that people—and nations—make in the name of security and survival. Within this world built on secrets, Grip and Friedman have to learn to trust each other if they hope to stay alive.
Excerpt from The Swede/ My Name Is N
The heavy door closed behind Grip.
The air was surprisingly cool; somewhere, a ventilation fan buzzed. The cell seemed smaller than it had looked through the surveillance camera. The man lay on the bunk. He didn’t move. Grip couldn’t see his eyes through the long hair, but felt that he was awake and very wary.
“Hello,” said Grip in Swedish and nodded. He took two steps forward, pulled out the chair, and sat down with his back to the cell door. The man on the bunk held his fists clenched. Grip looked around with slow and slightly exaggerated head movements, as if becoming acquainted with a newly discovered room.
Clenched fists, and now the man’s chest started to rise and fall in forced gasps. He struggled in vain to hide it.
Grip placed an elbow on the table. “I’m representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but actually I belong to the security police.” He paused. No reaction. Continued. “I’ve been called in because they’re wondering who you are. The Americans are wondering. Myself, I know precisely nothing.”
He squinted up at the fluorescent lamps hanging below the ceiling grates. “I was the one who got the air conditioning turned on, got you the table—and the newspapers, of course.” Grip looked down again, spinning the top paper in the stack his way. A Polish daily. He straightened his back a little.
“I suspect that you’ve been sent to many places, and have been through all kinds of questioning. Lots of tricks. To suddenly be showering, have air conditioning, newspapers—is this yet another one, you wonder? A man who seems friendly, that’s the oldest trick in the book.” Grip exhaled loudly.
“I’m Swedish. I will not lie to you, and I will not make you any false promises. That’s what you must consider.”
The man was breathing as violently as before, but now he no longer tried to hide it.
“The date here is a little misleading,” said Grip, tapping the paper with his fingertip. “This was printed a week ago, and today is the sixth, the sixth of May.”
The man moved his head, a short flick. His hair swept across his cheek, but Grip couldn’t see more of his face. His hair was dark, as dark as Grip’s own.
“Admittedly, the newspapers were a trick,” he continued. “But I had to try something.” He tapped his fingers on the pile again. “You’ve poked at them, glanced at a page here and there. And like me, with most languages, you have no idea. But this . . .”
Grip took a corner and pulled it out from the other papers. “Of course, you’re Swedish.” It was his own well-thumbed Expressen he held. “You sat and read it for two hours. Even the TV listings.”
The man opened the fingers of one hand and clenched his fist again.
“Yeah, I didn’t do it to get some sort of advantage. I might as well have asked, but they said you don’t answer when spoken to. So I thought this might save us some time. You’re Swedish, and now we both know it.” Grip followed the man’s breathing, kept his eyes on his chest.
“If I stand up and kick you a few times, hard, then you’ll be on familiar ground, right? Then you’ll know my type, what to expect. If instead I place something to eat on your table, and leave, then you’ll simply think it’s another trick. That’s a problem. Mostly for me, but probably for both of us.
“I am neither good nor evil, I’m just from home, and here to find out if you are Swedish. Now I know you understand Swedish, but I’d also like to find out who you are. One more thing. I don’t know how much time I get with you, that’s something the Americans out here determine. It’s not good, but that’s the deal. And it makes us equal—maybe I eat a little better, but right now we’re both their pawns.”
Grip got up, made a gesture in front of the camera’s Plexiglas, and then turned back. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, looking at the man and his whitened knuckles until the door lock rattled.
“Is he Swedish?” said Stackhouse, once Grip was back in the monitoring room.
Grip replied: “How much have you thrashed him? He curls up in a ball and starts to hyperventilate whenever a human comes near him. ”
“Is he Swedish?”
“How much? Every other day for a year—more? A guess: first electric shocks and waterboarding, then just kicks and punches when people got tired.” Stackhouse didn’t respond. Grip tucked his shirt into his waistband. “The nails are growing in again, but they look lumpy. Usually takes six months to get them back.”
“It hasn’t been handled professionally,” said Stackhouse effortlessly, but without looking at Grip.
“Thank you. And during all that, no one can be completely silent. How many identities he has claimed?”
“Many. A mess. I’ve said before, nothing we’ve been able to document.” Stackhouse raised his voice. “And regardless of where he was before, he’s here now. That’s enough. A straight question—is he Swedish?”
“I don’t know,” lied Grip. “He said nothing. He only hyperventilated.”