|This article does not cite any references or sources. (May 2014)|
Three Seconds (original title: Tre sekunder) is a dark, award-winning thriller by the Swedish crime-writing team of Anders Roslund and Borge Hellström. First published in Sweden in (2009), it was translated into English in 2010. The novel deals with criminals in contemporary Sweden, the Police and Probation Officials who monitor these offenders, and the government who wants to use them as undercover operatives. Throughout, the story cross-cuts between characters, giving alternating points of view of Piet Hoffman, a former criminal turned double agent; his handler, Erik Wilson; Ewert Grens, a determined detective whose efforts to solve a case threaten to expose Hoffman; and officials from various agencies involved in Hoffman’s operation.
Grens is a Detective Superintendent of the Stockholm Police, somewhere between 55 and 60 years old. Haunted by the death of his wife, for which he feels responsible, the grief-stricken Grens no longer takes care of himself or socializes with others. He survives on vending machine coffee and cakes; sleeps on the couch in his office; and knows his body and spirit are falling apart. When it comes to solving a crime, however, he digs in and won’t let go, using his keen intelligence and well-honed instincts to arrive at the truth. He has never left a case unclosed, and is incorruptible. Grens is also the hero of four earlier novels by Roslund and Hellstöm— The Beast (2004), Box 21(2005), Redemption (2006), and The Girl Below the Street (2009).
After being arrested for using drugs, Piet Hoffman was recruited by the police as an informant. He’s one of their very best agents, enjoying an almost addictive rush of adrenaline as he faces danger nearly every minute. But now he has something in his life he never expected: a beloved wife and two small boys who he wants to protect, no matter what the cost. Success with this assignment means a new identity and a fresh start with his family.
- Erik Wilson, Piet Hoffman’s handler, and, like Grens, a Detective Superintendent with the Swedish Police. He’s very fond of Hoffman, and torn between loyalty to the operative he’s meant to protect and obedience to the higher-ups willing to “burn” their agent.
- Lars Ågestam, the public prosecutor who will handle the case if Grens can provide enough evidence to go to court. Smooth and upper class, he rubs Grens the wrong way, and the two have a history of clashing.
- Sven Sundkvist. One of the detectives with the Stockholm police, he is Gren’s closest colleague and assists him in gathering information. Sundkvist also appears in the rest of the Grens series.
- Marianna Hermansson, another detective who is a trusted member of Gren’s team.
- Frederick Göransson, Chief Superintendent of the Stockholm City Police and keeper of secrets. He is the first to figure out that Grens is getting too close to the truth.
- Zofia Hoffman, Piet’s wife and mother of his two sons. For most of the novel, Zofia remains unaware of her husband’s job.
- Lennart Oscarsson, Chief Warden at Aspsås Prison, the most dangerous in all of Sweden.
- Martin Jacobson, Principal Officer at Aspsås Prison.
Three Seconds unfolds primarily in the streets and apartments of Stockholm and in Aspsås Prison, a fictional jail located not too far outside the city. In addition, there are side trips to both Denmark and Poland.