Hitman Anders And The Meaning Of It All, by Jonas Jonasson
Sometimes it does not take very long to figure out what an author is about, and such is the case here. Having read the author’s first novel previously, I was not surprised to see a lot of similarities between the two novels in how the situation was set up. We have a strange group of people with a lot of money that does not really belong to them, flexible morals, and a desire to get more out of life than they have had before. We have a criminal element that attempts to thwart the protagonists and fails miserably and a lot of cameo appearances from incompetent Swedish police forces, and a generally happy ending that affirms family and love with a somewhat cynical edge to it. This novel provided all of those things and was generally enjoyable, although it was by no means as fresh and original as the author’s previous work felt. The author has his schtick and he likes writing about odd and eccentric people in Sweden who make good in unconventional and generally illegal and/or immoral ways but who we are supposed to sympathize with and cheer for anyway, and this novel is certainly right in that same lane.
The plot of this book is straightforward enough, for all its quirkiness. Per Persson works first for a brothel and then for a hotel and makes a modest living dealing with various itinerant people. He then meets a defrocked Lutheran minister who happens not to believe in god and has some daddy issues, as well as hitman who gets violent with hard alcohol and pills combined and who has been in jail for a couple of murders. The three of them team up to profit off of crimes and contracts for crimes that will not be committed because Anders has found Jesus, and the three of them (along with a rotating cast of others, including a shady taxi driver) then seek to start a church to profit off of Anders’ newfound faith, which then draws the attention of some criminal elements who have been robbed by Anders and his associates. Of course, things get out of control, as there are bodies, regulations passed to keep the Church of Anders alcohol free, and the happy ending involves children and a group of people living in a remote lighthouse in the Baltic Sea. All’s well that ends well, I suppose.
Humorously enough, the experiences of the novel do lead its characters to reflect on the meaning of life in terms of family, even if that family is frequently unconventional, and even if the family operates in ways that are counter to legal and societal norms in Sweden (not that this is a bad thing). Given that Sweden has a reputation for not being very kind to outsiders, it is not too surprising that this novelist and former journalist would seek to promote the odd outsiders who don’t fit in and make them the heroes of his novels. In this particular case my sympathies are somewhat limited with the characters, because they are more unsavory than the ones from his previous novel. There is humor to this novel, but it is humor of a particular kind, a bit more cynical than was the case previously. One hopes that the author is able to find some sympathetic characters and vary the plot a bit so that he does not fall into too much of a rut, as this novel suggests this is a very real danger for the author if he continues on the path he is on right now.