After the Monsoon
Date Published10 April 2019
Price£ 9.99

After the Monsoon

by Robert Karjel (translated by Nancy Pick)

Security policeman Ernst Grip investigates the death of a Swedish soldier in Djibouti and enters a world of greed, intrigue and double-dealing.


In this convincing, subtle and intriguing story Robert Karjel manages to combine both Nordic noir and international thriller. While there are no dark, gloomy northern landscapes or melancholy silences, the former Swedish air force helicopter pilot manages to convey an atmosphere of self-doubt, mistrust and fear.

In the oppressing heat and exotic locations of the Horn of Africa, no one feels safe, and Karjel’s characters are little more than pawns in a complicated and deadly game played by those with money, power or obsessions.

Karjel knows what he is talking about. Across 25 years his service varied from peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan to pirate hunting in Somalia. Much of the action is set in Djibouti, that strange colonial left-over at the crossroads of shipping routes to Suez and the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, surrounded by the civil wars of Sudan and Ethiopia and the total chaos of Somalia. It is home to glittering hotels to rival any in the world, poverty and deprivation. It shares the only permanent American base in Africa with a brigade of French Foreign Legionnaires and representatives of the Muslim terrorists of both al-Quaeda and Isis. In a world where no one can be trusted, the real power is money.

This sequel to Karjel’s 2015 My Name Is N, finds Swedish security policeman Ernst Grip, normally on bodyguard detachment, seconded to a raid on a suspected Somali terrorist cell in an immigrant Stockholm neighbourhood. The raid is a bust, its only product a cryptic reference to a terrorist known only as Yuhuudi (the Jew). Meanwhile, an army lieutenant with Swedish forces in Djibouti is shot dead on a shooting range, and Grip is dispatched to investigate. His mission is complicated by the kidnapping of a Swedish family from their luxury boat by Somali pirates.

Grip, still in personal turmoil over the death from an Aids-related illness of his same-sex American lover, must face a series of dead ends and dangers before he can arrive at what is at best a morally complex solution to the killing.

As Grip is drawn deep into a web of intrigue, greed and double dealings, he wonders how it is possible to survive in a world where friends can become enemies in the blink of an eye.

Karjel offers enough realism – peppered with some pointed observations on politics, business and the military mentality, plenty of action and pace and enough in the balance scenarios – to keep his readers constantly involved and always wondering about that grey area between right and wrong.

This is a clever, thought-provoking story and it will be interesting to see if Karjel can lift his rather dour Scandinavian policeman to the level his brilliant plotting deserves.

Reviewed 13 April 2019 by John Cleal