I Know Nothing About the Cold War: A Review of Geiger by Gustaf Skördeman
Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.
Thank you for joining me today. I have a great post for y’all, and it’s brought to you by Novel Suspects Insider’s Club. Folks, we got a mystery on our hands! A huge thank you goes out Novel Suspects Insider’s Club and Grand Central Publishing for sending me an advanced copy of Geiger by Gustaf Skördeman; which went on sale yesterday May 10, 2022.
Disclaimer: I am not being paid for my review, I was just sent the book for free.
Let me tell ya a bit about this one. Geiger is a thriller for the history buffs out there. Oh yes. This novel is over 400 pages long and filled with Cold War spies, plots, murder, and a cop who shockingly does not have an excessive force case against her.
Before I get to the synopsis, a spoiler alert is in order. I also have a content and trigger warning for you. Our main character, Sara, is a cop who works in the Sex Trafficking and Prostitution Unit of a Swedish police department. There is lots of talk about sexual assault, rape, and pedophilia. That last one really comes hard out of nowhere. I’m gonna be honest, this book is not pleasant to read and I really could have done without a good chunk of what the author includes regarding those topics. It’s truly, truly disgusting. And on that note, let’s get to the synopsis.
Our story starts with Agneta and Stellan Broman. Stellan Broman, or Uncle Stellan as he’s more widely known, was a former television presenter and beloved by the entirety of Sweden. One day, right after the couple have seen their children and grandchildren off, the phone rings. Agneta answers and the caller says only one word: Geiger. With that single word, Agneta murders her husband of 50-years and goes on the run.
Enter Sara. She grew up with the Broman children and actually lived with the family for quite a few years during her childhood. Going against every regulation, she begins investigating Stellan’s murder even though she does not work in the homicide unit. Soon, she finds herself in a dark, tangled web of lies. Everything she thought she knew about the Broman family is a lie, as is her childhood. For example, Sara finds out that both Stellan and Agneta have ties to the Cold War. Like, Agneta is totally a spy.
This novel is full of Cold War facts and trivia. At least I assume this novel contains correct factoids, I know nothing about the Cold War. Listen, the American education system doesn’t teach history prior to 1776 and post 1945; sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get to learn about the Civil Rights Movement. And by Civil Rights Movement, I mean Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, but that's it. Yeah history doesn’t exist past the 1960’s according to the American education system. So the Cold War, I know nothing about it even though it totally existed in the 1940’s.
If you also know nothing about the Cold War, then this book will be confusing. You have to be prepared for names, aliases, code names, locations, attacks, schemes, and plots. And let me tell ya, they all blended into one giant mass. I had no clue what was going on when it came to the Cold War aspect of this novel.
I will give the author this, it is not dumbed down. Gustaf Skördeman expects readers to understand the history he is talking about. He does not explain the vast majority of terminology or events outside of the major ones relevant to the story. I respect the choice. Geiger is a niche read and it knows that.
I do have to say, because I lack knowledge of this point of history, this novel was a chore to get through. The lack of exposition was a hinderance for me, but I’m not going to fault the novel or author for this; as I said, this is a niche read. If you are a history buff, specifically regarding the Cold War, and you’re also a fan of thrillers, this is a good read for you. If you don’t know anything, beware.
What I am going to fault the novel on is misleading synopsis. Originally, I thought this was going to be a spy novel centered on Agneta fulfilling her orders from 50+ years ago. While that is indeed there, the novel focuses on Sara the vast majority of the time.
Sara’s story and character arc revolves around learning the secrets and letting go of her past. For a thriller I’d say it’s pretty standard fare. But as Sara is investigating Stellan’s murder, Agneta, and her story, get thrust to the back. There are a few short chapters spaced throughout the novel that revolve around Angeta and her spy duties, but they are few and far between. It feels as if she is forgotten more often than not. There never seems to be any care from the other characters, especially Sara and the few other police officers mentioned, that Agneta is missing and may have information pertinent to the investigation. It feels odd.
The other major issue I have with this novel revolves around the ending. This novel is long. I mean this in a few different ways. It’s long partially because it’s over 400 pages, partially because of the trigger topics I mentioned at the top of this review, and partially because of my lack of knowledge when it comes to the Cold War. If I’m spending a long time with a book, I want some serious pay off. Sadly, there never really is any.
Listen, this is not a novel that ends wrapped in a neat, pretty bow. I had that inkling going it, but the end is not satisfying by any means. It does not feel like an ending; it’s very much open to interpretation, but I’d argue it’s too open. Major spoiler alert! People, very important characters, die in the end and it may or may not be for nothing. So…this whole novel is for what then? Things to go back to normal? The fictional version of Earth to end up in the same place the world currently is?
Overall, this book is a fast-paced political thriller that throws readers through a loop. It goes off in many different directions that reveal unexpected new clues and secrets of both high-ranking government officials and the Broman family.
But these things come at a steep cost to readers. Names and locations all blur together and at times it’s nearly impossible to remember who is related to whom and/or how they know each other. Cold War history is the driving force behind this novel, and should a reader not be knowledgeable on this point of history, things will get confusing extremely quickly.
And with that, I shall bid you all adieu. Thank you for joining me this week, I’ll see you next Wednesday with another post. Next week will be something different, something nice and lighthearted.
Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.