Leona: The Die Is Cast
“an extraordinary debut novel filled with unique characters and heart-pumping situations we never see coming.”
Bank robberies and bank robbers in crime fiction are nothing new. A dime a dozen, if you excuse the pun. Usually males, masked and screaming, brandishing an assortment of lethal-looking guns menacingly in the air, or in the faces of terrified bank customers and tellers.
We’ve seen/read it all. Right? Wrong.
In what has to be one of the most original and suspenseful openings in a psychological crime thriller, Swedish bestselling author, Jenny Rogneby’s debut novel, (Part One in a three-part series) Leona: The Die Is Cast, turns all thrillers on their heads, and rips to shreds all previously written rules on the genre.
A naked and bloody seven-year-old girl walks into a bank in central Stockholm, Sweden, clutching a grubby teddy bear. She plays a threatening recording, demanding money from the bank tellers. No one dares intervene after hearing the message, chiefly because they fear the girl may be harmed, perhaps killed, if they do. The child leaves the bank with millions and disappears without leaving a trace of evidence, all done in broad daylight.
This daring robbery is trusted to investigator Leona Lindberg of Stockholm’s elite VCD (Violent Crimes Division). With a long and distinguished history in the police force, she seems to be the natural candidate to lead the investigation. If anyone can solve these baffling robberies, she can. At least that’s what her overbearing boss, Superintendent Claes Zetterlund, is hoping for, despite the fact he keeps forcing Leona to work with—what she regards to be—inferior staff.
But unbeknown to Zetterlund, Leona is struggling with numerous personal issues, least of all a troubled marriage that could jeopardize the entire investigation. As she progresses forward, something is clearly amiss, and her behavior becomes slightly askew, to say the least. For instance: Why is she ignoring witness statements and calling in suspects on the barest thread of suspicion?
When a second robbery takes place supposedly by the same little girl, how does Leona manage to be the first one at the scene? What is she hiding, if anything? Or is she simply a great cop with street-like instincts of the criminals she hunts and helps to put in prison?
As she struggles to keep the volatile pieces of her life from spiraling out of control, the thin blue line between right and wrong becomes increasingly blurred—and dangerously so.
Leona Lindberg is a complex character, at times motoring on paradoxical contradictions: she’s a superb investigator but has a healthy disregard for the status quo and all authority; has a propensity to say it like it is, even when she knows she shouldn’t say it like it is. Self-critical at times but full of confidence, she can be mean with words, offending everyone within earshot, while offering a balm of comfort when the situation suits her.
She doesn’t tolerate fools, and in all honesty, rarely tolerates anyone. Her personal life is a shambles. She spends more time on her laptop, than she does with her husband, Peter, and seriously ill child, Beatrice, all the time hiding her secret from them:
“As usual in the evening I lay in bed waiting for Peter to fall asleep. It seldom took long, which was particularly important now. Tonight I didn’t have many hours to myself. I had to get up early in the morning, but I had already prepared everything.
“He didn’t wake up as I tiptoed out of the room. I had left the computer on so it would be quicker to log in. When I moved the mouse, the screensaver disappeared. I opened up a window and logged on. People from all over the world were logged on too. Twenty-four hours a day. We all shared the same interest.
That’s right. She’s a gambling addict, and loves the burn of adrenaline on her spine, which only the thrill of quick money and dark secrets can create. Some people would say Leona is borderline narcissistic, and perhaps she is. Yet, despite all this, warts and all, there is something truly fascinating about her, in an anti-hero/femme fatale kind-of-way.
From the evocative beginning, to the shocking denouement, Leona: The Die Is Cast, is an extraordinary debut novel filled with unique characters and heart-pumping situations we never see coming. Jenny Rogneby is an exciting and fresh new voice, bringing all her years of experience as a criminal investigator into the pages, giving them the voice of authenticity other crime thrillers lack. Totally riveting. Roll on the sequel.