I Am the Tiger – John Ajvide Lindqvist

Once winner of the Golden Shovel for investigative reporting and the first journalist on the scene of the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in February 1986, Tommy Torstensson’s reputation is now somewhat tarnished, living with his three-legged rescue dog Hagge and struggling to use his underworld connections to pull together a worthwhile story until his editor asked him to look into the suicides.

All of the deceased linked to organised criminal activity, the forensic analysis confirming no outside assistance or evidence of murder, there have been thirty of them in two months including people known by Tommy T, apparently pushed out of the game by a new player who the police refer to simply as “X,” an unknown whose shadow is spreading over Stockholm.

The designation signifying a confluence, a crossing, a meeting, an interruption, an excision or elimination, even buried treasure, is it coincidence that Tommy T’s teenage nephew Linus Axelsson lives in the Gårdstuggan development whose four buildings form a vast X, or that despite his denials Tommy T is convinced that Linus knows more than he is saying about the changes in the distribution of drugs in the neighbourhood, in particular a new supply of cocaine of astonishing purity?

The conclusion of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s loose trilogy which began with the displaced caravan park of Himmelstrand (literally Sky Beach), “The First Place,” published in English as I Am Behind You and continued to the dank suburban decay of Rörelsen: Den andra platsen (The Movement: The Second Place) transformed into I Always Find You, now drawing the apparently disconnected events together into a disturbing whole is X: Den sista platsen (X: The Last Place), metamorphosed into I Am the Tiger.

Initially a puzzle, Tommy T frustrated as he pieces together the contradictory and counterintuitive evidence without knowledge of the picture he is trying to form, as things become clearer the situation becomes more alarming with links to events through his own life, the times he has been “summoned” to crime scenes for want of a better word, skirting a consuming darkness which has already claimed others: “There is nothing but emptiness,” Hans-Åke Larsson’s suicide note read. “I don’t want to be here any longer.”

I Am the Tiger written with Lindqvist’s customary bleak nihilism, Linus having grown up “in the shadow of a wreck, with all the attraction of a broken promise” selling his ADHD medicine for cash since he was twelve, death and life-changing accidents just happen, his few friends demonstrating the coping mechanisms of those already dead inside, knowing that to hope for a better life is futile, that rather than trying to improve things they must deal with what is, at least until circumstances offer Linus another chance to look at his misfortune and say “how can I use this?”

Each of the characters existing in their own darkness, fumbling towards light or connection, fearful of what it might expose, they each wear masks in their dealing with others, Tommy T his cultivated public personality of the chat show circuit, Linus lying to his family, a blazing star but only so long as his star is ascendant, his paraplegic father unable to escape his wheelchair or communicate what he feels save in drooling grunts, “X” most of all, glimpsed only peripherally and always in disguise, the axis from which the strings are pulled, making the puppets dance.

A country of despair, of cold winters and long nights where comfort comes only from drugs, booze or both, beyond that is the eternal sunshine in which the tiger basks, only accessible to those who have given themselves wholly to that transforming darkness, the threads Lindqvist has woven coming together so suddenly it is almost a surprise, the solution surprisingly simple beneath the misdirection and distractions, the tiger magnificent and powerful but never to be trusted.

I Am the Tiger is available from riverrun now



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