#allthebookreviews – Pen 33 by Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom

First week of December is almost over! Here’s another one for the #allthebookreviews list 🙂

Thanks to Quercus for the advanced copies in exchange for our honest reviews.

PEN 33 by Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom (out now)

This is a Scandinavian suspense novel that covers some controversial topics that won’t be for everyone – just as a warning.


Chandra’s Thoughts: 2/5 stars

“Publisher’s Note: This book portrays sexual violence involving minors.”

And it certainly does. I never have a hard time reading graphic material. It truly doesn’t bother me and I get fascinated with how certain ideas are brought to a page by an author – especially when they go into a gruesome, almost disgusting light. Pedophilia is never an easy subject to talk about, discuss or read about. And this book is consumed in it. Thankfully I don’t have any children, which probably makes this an easier read for me than it would for anyone who does.

There’s so much grittiness to this book – drug use, prison life, heinous sexual acts…. it’s certainly cringe worthy. The overuse of the word “slut” got a but cumbersome. I realize that maybe that’s the way the character was always supposed to think but every time we were inside his head all I saw were the words “slut” and “scream” over and over and over and over again. It just became too much and got a bit annoying. I found myself skimming through most of those sections after a while. What’s most intriguing is not even the character of Lund, the child molester, serial killer and all around inhuman person, but of a father, Frederik Steffansson, and his journey to bring about justice for his daughter.

I did feel that the writing was a bit choppy and hard to follow at times. There was a lot of characters brought into the mix and sometimes the cohesion from chapter to chapter became lost on me. While I wanted to love this book and it’s unique writing style and story line, it just didn’t work for me.

My Thoughts: 3.5/5 stars

I feel that I need to include the same disclaimer that my partner reader, Chandra, did. “Publisher’s Note: This book portrays sexual violence involving minors.” So if this is a topic you with to avoid, then I would recommend steering away from PEN 33. However, if you want a murder mystery with some cringe-worthy elements, then this might be right up your alley!

Bernt Lund has a sickness. To say the least, he is an evil and vile person. He’s an unrepentant child molester and serial killer. If that’s not enough to hate this character, then I don’t know what else will. Everyone he encounters – society, his victims’ parents, and even his fellow inmates – all think that he’s a monster. Everyone’s worst nightmare becomes a reality when he manages to escape custody. Detective Ewert Grens is on the case. Over the course of a summer, Detective Grens will encounter things he never thought that he would in his pursuit of Lund.

With this being a translation I can never really know if it’s because of the translating or just how it was originally written, but when some words are frequently used it can get old. After discussing the book with Chandra, I hadn’t really realized how much the authors used the word slut in the novel. It’s a lot. The writing felt a little scattered, but again, I’m not sure if that’s because it’s a translation and some things get missed or don’t translate perfectly. I did read through this quickly, despite the subject. With topics like child molestation and murder, I’m always a little curious how the authors will approach it in a suspense novel like this one.

Overall, If you want a good suspense novel dealing with chasing down a prison escapee, then PEN 33 would be a good one to have on your TBR. However, if the topic of child molestation and violent sexual acts involving children is not something you wish to read, then this would be one to avoid.


What are some more controversial or taboo topics you try to avoid in thrillers?



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