Until I was fifteen, I hadn’t realized that smiling gave me an advantage. By studying other people I had learned how to socialize.
A seven year-old girl known only as Olivia walks into a bank in Stockholm, naked and covered in blood. She gets away with millions and walks out in broad daylight without being found. The Little Girl Robbery as it’s called becomes a media sensation and experienced officer Leona Lindberg takes the case. Leona is unquestionably competent but plagued with demons of her own; she’s got a serious gambling addiction, a seriously ill child, and a crumbling marriage. All this would be enough to create plenty of narrative drama in its own right. But Jenny Rogneby, former pop star and police investigator in the Stockholm Police Department, and now author of Leona: The Die is Cast, adds a an incredibly daring new wrinkle to the matter.
At first Leona’s chilly and precise narrative voice (alternating with third person scenes with other characters), appears to be autism, it slowly dawns on the reader that it is actually a form of sociopathy. Leona seems to be incapable of human emotions like guilt, empathy, or even conscience. The only time she ever experiences love is for her own children; and it confuses and distresses her. She’s not a character who instills any sense of sympathy, but we do feel empathy. Rogneby has created a protagonist who both repels and compels all at once.
Other characters make their marks too, like annoyingly persistent journalist Christer, Prosecutor Nina, the closest thing Leona has to a friend, and her emotionally volatile supervisor and one-time lover Claes. As Leona investigates The Little Girl Robbery, the novel takes twists and turns that will leave any reader breathless. Child abuse is an ongoing theme from the first page not only for the child turned robber Olivia but Leona herself. It will probably continue to be a theme throughout the books for The Die is Cast, is clearly intended only to be the beginning of a new series. We meet her deceptively perfect family who conceal their dark secrets under a patina of perfection. Rogneby has given us a book you cannot put down, through the frantic final pages that end on a cliffhanger sure to leave you dreading and anticipating what comes next.
Leona: The Die is Cast
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