Cover image for Studio sex : a novel : an Annika Bengtzon thriller
Studio sex : a novel : an Annika Bengtzon thriller
Marklund, Liza, 1962-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Studio sex. English
Publication Information:
New York : Atria Books, 2002.
Physical Description:
viii, 351 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Prequel to: The Bomber.
Geographic Term:
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X Adult Fiction Central Library

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The discovery of a woman's body in a cemetery leads neophyte reporter Annika Bengtzon deep into the investigation of the rape and murder case, which seems to reach into the halls of power in Sweden.

Author Notes

Liza Marklund was born in Pålmark, Sweden on September 9, 1962. She worked as an investigative reporter for ten years and as an editor in print and television news for five years. She currently makes documentaries for television including Take a Little Beating, writes for various newspapers, and writes books. She has written several fiction and nonfiction books including the Annika Bengtzon series and The Postcard Killers with James Patterson. She is also goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and co-owner of Piratförlaget, one of Sweden's most successful publishing houses.

(Bowker Author Biography) A thirty-seven year old print & television journalist, Liza Marklund lives in Stockholm with her husband & three children. "The Bomber" is her first novel.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Despite the titillating title, there's no sex to speak of in Marklund's second thriller featuring Swedish reporter Annika Bengtzon. The events in this book precede those in The Bomber [My 1 01], which introduced Annika as a successful newspaper editor. Here we see her eight years earlier, working as a summer intern at the same Stockholm paper. A young stripper's body is found in a city park, and as Annika and her colleagues investigate, they discover some strange links between the murder, high-ranking Swedish officials, and an illegal espionage operation long since disbanded. Meanwhile, Annika is struggling with a clingy boyfriend and learning the ins and outs of reporting in a competitive environment. These struggles are more compelling than the crimes she is investigating, and the action tends to move at a snail's pace until the rushed climax. However, fans of The Bomber will enjoy a second dose of spunky Annika and the realistic newsroom scenes. An author's note gives helpful background information on Swedish politics and the real-life inspiration for the story. --Carrie Bissey

Publisher's Weekly Review

Demonstrating that literary tastes abroad do not necessarily coincide with those of American readers, this second volume of a projected trilogy of thrillers a bestseller in Europe plods dutifully from start to finish. This installment is a prequel to the first volume, The Bomber (released in the U.S. last spring), which followed the adventures of Swedish journalist Annika Bengtzon. Eight years before her Bomber adventures, Annika is a novice reporter for the fictional Stockholm tabloid, Kvellspressen. Assigned to screening crank phone calls on the tip line in hopes of getting an occasional valid news break, Annika receives an anonymous tip about the nude corpse of a young girl in a public park. Sent with a photographer and an experienced reporter to follow up, she is rewarded with the admiration of her editors for her reporting but falls victim to the envy of the regular staff for her success. As the plot develops, the focus of the investigation shifts from the victim's lover, the owner of the upscale sex club where she worked, to an important government minister who keeps a secret apartment near the park. Delving into the bureaucrat's alibi, Annika discovers that he is somehow involved in the coverup of the reappearance of a missing archive that could shake the foundation of the ruling Social Democrats. Annika dons a G-string and goes undercover; a murky diary details sexual obsession; but repetition and minutiae weaken a plot fairly begging for resolution. The novel's pacing leaves much to be desired for American readers used to snappier action, and Marklund fails to supply substance in the form of serious character development or literary styling. (Aug. 6) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Author's Note Sweden is an odd little country close to the north pole. There are fewer than nine million of my fellow Swedes. We experience one of the world's highest standards of living, we live longer than people anywhere else, and we enjoy the greatest gender equality of any country in the world. Nonetheless, our suicide rate is high, we're way up near the top in the taxpaying league table, and men still beat their women to death regularly. This is the place where my novels are set. It's a society full of contradictions. It is strange and very ordinary at one and the same time. Since 1932, Sweden has been run almost continually by the Social Democratic Worker's Party. (The liberals and conservatives have ruled in short terms for a total of nine years over this period.) This has, not surprisingly, created some arrogance among the people in power. The Social Democrats started bending the rules early, and then making up their own. One of the rule-bendings resulted in the illegal espionage organization called the IB. Party spies worked both inside and outside Sweden for decades. Tens of thousands of Swedes were registered and defined as "security risks," which meant they might lose their jobs and their elective offices. The crimes these "security risks" were alleged to have perpetrated included parking their car too close to the wrong political meeting. The truth about the IB organization was revealed in May 1973 by two young reporters, Jan Guillou and Peter Bratt, who wrote for the small, alterantive magazine FiB. Both journalists were sentenced to a year in prison for the article, making them two of very few political prisoners in modern Swedish history. (Everything turned out fine for the journalists. Today, Peter Bratt is an investigative reporter at the biggest and most prestigious Swedish morning paper, Dagens Nyheter. Jan Guillou is the chairman of the Swedish Publishers Club, and also a bestselling author. Together we own one of Sweden's biggest publishing houses, Pirat. Ha ha!) Everything describing the IB affair in this novel is true, up until the conclusion. But since Sweden is an arms-exporting country, who knows? Sweden is militarily neutral. Squeezed beween the NATO member nations Denmark and Norway on one side and Finland and the former Soviet Union on the other, this seemed like the smart thing to do for a long time. Not having any allies during the cold war forced us to maintain a strong national military defense. It also made us build an advanced weapons and arms production infrastructure, and the Swedish parliament has agreed to a limited and controlled export of this matériel. In 1986, the Indian government closed a deal with the Swedish company Bofors, worth 8.4 billion Swedish kronor. The Social Democratic government was deeply involved in the agreement. Prime Minister Olof Palme talked the whole deal through in several meetings with Indian prime ministers Indira Gandhi and, later, Rajiv Gandhi. It became clear that Bofors got the order after 300 million kronor of bribes. The scandal dominated the Indian election campain in 1989 and actually caused Rajiv Gandhi to lose his office. (There have been several deaths in the aftermath of this deal, which might be quite coincidental. Olof Palme was shot dead in Stockholm on February 28, 1986. The man in charge of controlling the Swedish export of war matériel, Carl Algernon, was killed in a strange accident in the Stockholm subway January 15, 1987. A Swedish journalist who investigated the Bofors affairs, Cats Falck, was found dead in her car on the bottom of the ocean, and Rajiv Gandhi was murdered in 1991.) The role of the Swedish government in this affair is still not clear. The Social Democrats have promised, again and again, to publicly "wash their dirty laundry" in this matter. We're still waiting. Our society is well regulated. We don't mind that Big Brother is watching. Every citizen is given a personal number at birth. This number follows you everywhere: bank accounts, taxes, phone bills, car registration, stocks, employment records, and so on. Everybody's number is published (with few exceptions, which I will explore in my novel The Paradise Trust) and can be located through the tax office. Using this number, you can find out a man's income, his wealth, his previous wife's maiden name, and his kids' grades in math. Everything is on the official record about us Swedes, but also about the people in power. Every piece of paper lodged with our authorities is public, as well as all the bills and receipts turned in by our officials. Anyone can check every expense by our politicians, union leaders, and other authorities. Still, they cheat. In the 1990s, an endless line of powerful people were caught going to gambling clubs, brothels, porno theaters, and on exotic vacations at taxpayers' expense. In July 1994, I found a limousine bill that proved that Bjorn Rosengren, the leader of a huge union cartel, had lied about a visit to a porn club during the 1991 election. Rosengren had to resign, and the cartel made it no secret that they thought this was my fault. These events inspired me to write the novel Studio Sex. Oddly enough, the members of this very union selected me Author of the Year for this book. And everything worked out for Bjorn Rosengren as well. His pals in the party made him governer of Norrbotten, my home region. Today he's the minister of industry in the Social Democratic government. All of these affairs have, of course, been brought to the attention of the Swedish people by the media. The Swedes read more newspapers than those of almost any other nationality, probably because all nongovernmental broadcasting was forbidden until the late 1980s. Until then, we had two state-run TV channels and three state-run radio stations. Broadcast news programs have always been strict, official, and uncontroversial. Investigative journalism and groundbreaking news have usually been found in the tabloids. The Swedish evening papers blend the serious and the popular in a way I haven't seen anywhere else: investigative work sits next to celebrity scandals. The papers have a true love-hate relationship with their readers. Swedes love to discuss and question the tabloids and cuss at them too. Lately, a debate has centered on a mentally disturbed drug addict who was convicted of the murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986. Later, he was acquitted by the appeals court and is, therefore, a free man. In the last ten years, the man has received 1 million Swedish kronor from the tabloids and the new commercial TV stations, mainly for giving interviews. This is still not acceptable practice in Sweden and has been strongly condemned by sections of the public. The murder of Olof Palme remains unsolved to this day. I wish you exciting and thoughtful reading. Liza Marklund Avarua, Rarotonga New Year's Day, 2002 Copyright © 1999 by Liza Marklund Prologue When she saw the salmon-pink panties hanging from a bush, her first reaction was one of outrage. Didn't young people respect anything these days? Not even the dead were allowed to rest in peace. She was lost in thought about the decline of society while her dog grubbed around in the undergrowth along the iron fence. It was when she followed the animal past the small trees along the south side of the cemetery that she saw the leg. Her indignation grew even stronger -- the impudence! Oh, yes, she saw them walking the streets at night, scantily dressed and talking loudly, openly inviting the men. The heat was no excuse. The dog took a shit in the high grass next to the fence. She turned away, pretending not to see. No people were around this early in the morning, so she needn't bother with the plastic bag. "Come on, Jasper," she called to the dog, pulling him toward the exercise enclosure on the eastern side of the park. "Come on, boy, my little darling..." She glanced behind her as she walked away from the fence. She couldn't see the leg now; it was hidden by the dense foliage. It was going to get hot again today; she could feel it already. Her brow was beaded with sweat even though the sun was barely up. She panted her way up the hill. The dog was pulling at the leash, his tongue lolling so that it was almost touching the grass. How on earth could you lie down to sleep in a cemetery, the resting place of the dead? Was this what feminism meant, to be allowed to behave badly and disrespectfully? She was still upset. The steep hill just made her even more irritable. I should get rid of the dog, she thought, and was immediately seized by guilt. To compensate for her wickedness, she bent down to unleash the dog and take it in her arms. The dog wriggled free and shot after a squirrel. The woman sighed. Her thoughtfulness obviously wasn't appreciated. Sighing again, she dropped onto a park bench while Jasper attempted to chase down the squirrel. The dog was soon exhausted and parked himself underneath the fir tree where the little rodent was hiding. She stayed on the bench until she saw that the dog was done. As she got up, she noticed that her dress was clinging to her back. The thought of the dark stains along her spine made her feel self-conscious. "Jasper darling, little doggy..." She held out a plastic bag full of treats, and the short-legged bullterrier came running straight at her. With his tongue dangling out of his mouth, he looked as if he were laughing. "Oh, you want this, don't you, my friend..." She gave the dog the bag's contents and put him back on the leash. It was time to go home. Jasper had had his treat. Now it was her turn -- coffee and a bun. But the dog didn't want to go home. He'd spotted the squirrel again, and fortified by the treats, he was ready for another chase. He protested loudly and fiercely, pulling at the leash. "I don't want to stay out any longer," she moaned. "Come on now!" They took a roundabout way to avoid the steep, grassy hills that faced her apartment building. She could manage uphill, but going down was hard on her knees. She was right above the northeast corner of the cemetery when she saw the body. It lay embedded in the lush, overgrown vegetation, licentiously stretched out behind a partly collapsed gravestone. A fragment of a Star of David was next to her head. Only then did the woman begin to feel scared. The body was naked, much too still and white. The dog broke loose and rushed up to the fence, the leash dancing like an angry snake behind him. "Jasper!" He managed to squeeze in between two bars and continued over to the dead woman. "Jasper, come here!" She yelled as loudly as she dared; she didn't want to wake the people living around the park. Many slept with open windows in the heat; the inner-city stone buildings didn't cool down during the short summer nights. She rummaged frantically in the plastic bag, but she'd run out of things to give him. The bullterrier stopped next to the body and looked at her attentively. Then he started sniffing, at first searching, then eagerly. When he got to her genitals, the woman couldn't check herself. "Jasper! Come here this minute!" The dog looked up but gave no sign of obeying. Instead, he moved to the woman's head and started sniffing at the hands resting next to her face. To her horror, the dog started chewing at the fingers. She felt sick and grabbed the black iron bars. Carefully, she moved to the left, leaned down, and peered in among the gravestones. From a distance of six feet, she was staring into the woman's eyes. They were light-colored and clouded, dull and cold. She had a strange sensation of all sound around her disappearing. She was left with a buzzing tone in her ears. I've got to get the dog away from here, she thought. I can't let anyone know what Jasper did. She went down on her knees and reached her hand in as far as she could through the fence. Her splayed fingers were pointing straight at the dead eyes. Her fat upper arms threatened to get stuck between the bars as she reached for the hook of the leash. The dog howled when she pulled at the leather strap. He didn't want to let go of his prey; the hand was firmly wedged in his jaws. She jerked the animal toward her as hard as she could. "You stupid, stinking dog!" He hit the fence with a thud, giving a yelp. With trembling hands she forced the animal out through the iron bars. She was holding him as she never had before, both hands in a firm grip around the belly. She hurried down to the street, slipping on the grass on her way, painfully pulling a muscle in her groin. Only when she had locked the door behind her in her own apartment and saw the scraps of flesh in the dog's mouth did she throw up. Copyright © 1999 by Liza Marklund From Part One: July SEVENTEEN YEARS, FOUR MONTHS, AND SIXTEEN DAYS I thought love was only for others, for those who are visible and who count. My mistake is singing inside me, great shouts of joy. It's me he wants. The euphoria, the first touch, his fringe falling into his eyes when he looked at me; nervous, not at all arrogant. Crystal clear: the wind, the light, the feeling of absolute perfection, the sidewalk, the hot wall of the house. I got the one I wanted. He's the center of attention. The other girls smile and flirt, but I'm not jealous. I trust him. I know he's mine. I see him from the other end of the room, blond hair that gleams, the movement as he smooths it back, a strong hand, my hand. My chest contracts under a band of happiness; I'm breathless, tears are in my eyes. The light clings to him, making him strong and whole. He says he can't manage without me. His vulnerability lies just beneath his smooth skin. I lie on his arm and he draws his finger along my face. Never leave me, he says; I can't live without you. And I promise. SATURDAY 28 JULY There's a dead girl in Kronoberg Park." This one had the breathless voice of a heavy drug user. Amphetamines perhaps. Annika Bengtzon took her eyes away from the screen and fumbled for a pen amid the mess on her desk. "How do you know?" she asked, too much skepticism in her voice. "Because I'm fucking standing next to it!" The voice rose to falsetto and Annika held the phone away from her ear. "Okay. How dead?" she said, realizing she sounded ridiculous. "Shit! Stone dead! How fucking dead can you be?" Annika looked around the newsroom uncertainly. Over at the news desk, Spike, the news editor, was talking on the phone. Anne Snapphane was fanning herself with a pad at the desk across from Annika, and Pelle Oscarsson was standing at the picture desk, clicking away at his Mac. "Yeah, right," she said, and found a pen in an empty coffee mug. She started taking notes on the back of an old wire report from the news agency TT. "In Kronoberg Park, you say. Whereabouts?" "Behind a gravestone." "A gravestone?" The man started crying. Annika waited a few seconds in silence. She didn't know what to say next. The tip-off phone's official name was The Hot Line, but in-house it was never called anything other than Creepy Calls. The majority of the callers were either jokers or nutcases. This one was definitely a candidate for the latter. "Hello...?" Annika said warily. The man blew his nose. He took a couple of deep breaths and told Annika his story. Anne Snapphane was watching from the other side of the desk. "Where do you find the energy to keep answering that phone?" Anne asked as Annika hung up. Annika didn't respond, but just continued scribbling her notes. "I've got to get another ice cream or I'll die. Do you want anything from the café?" Anne Snapphane asked as she got to her feet. "I've got to check something first," Annika said, lifting the receiver and dialing the direct number to the emergency switchboard. It was true. Four minutes earlier, they had received a call about a body being found next to Kronobergsgatan. Annika got up and walked over to the news desk with the wire in her hand. Spike was still on the phone, his feet on his desk. Annika stationed herself right in front of him, demanding his attention. The news editor gave her an annoyed look. "Suspected murder, young woman," Annika said, and waved the printout in front of him. Spike hung up abruptly and put his feet on the floor. "Did you get it from TT?" he asked, and clicked on his computer. "No, Creepy Calls." "Confirmed?" "It was reported to the emergency services center." Spike turned to look round the newsroom. "Okay. Who's here?" Annika braced herself. "It's my tip-off." "Berit!" Spike said, standing up. "This summer's murder!" Berit Hamrin, one of the older reporters at the paper, picked up her handbag and came over to the desk. "Where's Carl Wennergren? Is he in today?" "No, he's off. He's sailing the Round Gotland Race," Annika said. "It's my tip-off, it came in to me." "Pelle, photo!" Spike yelled in the direction of the picture desk. The picture editor gave him the thumbs-up, then called out, "Bertil Strand." "Okay," the news editor said, and turned to Annika. "What have we got?" Annika looked at her messy notes, suddenly noticing how nervous she was. "A dead girl behind a gravestone at the Jewish Cemetery in Kronoberg Park on Kungsholmen." "Doesn't mean it's a goddamn murder, does it?" "She's naked and she's been strangled." Spike gave Annika a scrutinizing look. "And you want to do it?" Annika swallowed and nodded. The news editor sat down again and pulled out a notepad. "Okay. You can go with Berit and Bertil. Make sure you get some good pictures, the rest of the information we can get later, but you've got to get the pics straightaway." The photographer put the backpack with his equipment over his shoulder as he walked past the news desk. "Where is it?" he said, directing the question at Spike. "Kronoberg Jail," Spike said, and picked up the phone. "The park," Annika said, and looked for her bag. "Kronoberg Park. The Jewish Cemetery." "Just make sure it isn't a domestic incident," Spike said, and dialed a London number. Berit and Bertil Strand were already on their way to the elevator to go down to the garage, but Annika stopped in her tracks. "What do you mean?" she said. "Exactly what I said: we don't meddle in family matters." The news editor turned his back on her. Annika felt anger surge through her body and reach her brain like an electric shock. "It doesn't make the girl any less dead." Spike began talking on the phone and Annika saw it meant the end of their discussion. She looked up, and Berit and Bertil Strand had already disappeared into the elevator. She hurried over to her desk, pulled out her bag, which had disappeared under the desk, and ran after her colleagues. The elevator was gone, so she took the stairs. Damn, damn -- why the hell did she always have to take up arms? She might have lost her first big assignment just so she could take the news editor to task. "Moron," she said out loud to herself. She caught up with the reporter and the photographer at the entrance to the garage. "We'll work side by side and keep an open mind until we have to split up and work different parts of the story," Berit said, writing on a pad while walking. "I'm Berit Hamrin, by the way. I don't think we've said hello." The older woman smiled at Annika. They shook hands while getting into Bertil Strand's Saab, Annika in the back, Berit in front. "Don't slam the door so hard," Bertil Strand said with disapproval, glancing over his shoulder at Annika. "It can damage the paintwork." Jesus Christ, Annika thought to herself. "Oops, sorry," she said to Strand. The photographers had the use of the newspaper's vehicles more or less as company cars. Most of the photographers took their car-care responsibilities extremely seriously. Maybe this was because all photographers, to a man, were men. She had been at Kvällspressen only seven weeks but was already acutely aware of the sanctity of the photographers' cars. On several occasions, she had had to postpone scheduled interviews because the photographers had been busy getting their cars washed. At the same time it showed what importance was attached to her pieces at the newspaper. "We're better off approaching the park from the other side and avoiding Fridhemsplan," Berit said as the car picked up speed at the junction of Rålambsvägen and Gjörwellsgatan. Bertil Strand put his foot down and drove through right as the light turned red, down Gjörwellsgatan and on toward Norr Mälarstrand. "Could you run through the information you got from the tipster again?" Berit said, leaning her back on the car door so that she could look at Annika in the backseat. Annika fished out the crumpled piece of paper. "Right -- there's a dead woman behind a gravestone in Kronoberg Park. She's naked and has probably been strangled." "Who called?" "A speed freak. His pal was taking a leak by the fence and spotted her between the bars." "Why did they think she had been strangled?" Annika turned the paper round and read something she had scribbled in a corner of the paper. "There was no blood, her eyes were wide open, and she had injuries to her neck." "That doesn't have to mean that she was strangled, or even murdered," Berit said, and turned to face the front again. Annika didn't reply. She turned to look out through the tinted windows of the Saab, seeing the sun worshipers of Rålambshov Park slide past. The glittering waters of Riddarfjärd Bay lay before her. She had to squint, despite the UV coating on the windshield. Two windsurfers were heading for Långholmen Island, but slowly. The air barely moved in the heat. "What a great summer we're having," Bertil Strand said as he turned into Polhemsgatan. "You wouldn't have thought it, after the amount of rain we had in the spring." "Yeah, I've been lucky," Berit said. "I've just had my four weeks' holiday. Sun every single day. You can park just behind the fire station." The Saab sped down the last few blocks along Bergsgatan. Before Bertil Strand slowed down, Berit had undone her seat belt; she jumped out of the car before he had even started parking. Annika hurried after her, gasping in the heat that hit her outside the car. Strand parked the car while Berit and Annika set off alongside a redbrick, fifties building. The narrow asphalt path skirting the park was bordered by high paving stones. "There's a flight of steps farther on," Berit said, already out of breath. Six steps later they were in the park proper. They ran along a path leading up to a well-equipped kids' playground. On the right were several barrackslike buildings. Annika read the sign Playground as she ran past. There was a sandbox, benches, picnic tables, a jungle gym, several slides, swings, and other things that children could play with and climb on. Three or four mothers with children were in the playground; it looked as if they were packing up to leave. At the far end two police officers in uniform were talking to a fifth mother. "I think the cemetery is farther down toward Sankt Göransgatan," Berit said. "You know your way around here," Annika said. "Do you live in the neighborhood?" "No. It's not the first murder in this park." Annika saw that the police officers were each holding a roll of official blue-and-white tape. They were evacuating the playground to cordon it off from the public. "We're just in time," she mumbled to herself. They veered to the right, following a path that took them to the top of a hill. "Down to the left," Berit said. Annika ran ahead. She crossed two paths, and there it was. She saw a row of Stars of David standing out against the deep green foliage. "I see it!" she yelled over her shoulder, noting out of the corner of her eye that Bertil Strand was catching up with Berit. The fence was black, made of beautifully rendered wrought iron. Each bar was crowned with a stylized Star of David. She was running on top of her shadow and realized she was approaching the cemetery from the south. She stopped on the crest of the hill; she had a good view from here. The police hadn't cordoned off this part of the park yet, which they had on the north and west sides. "Hurry up!" she yelled to Berit and Bertil Strand. The fence surrounded a small cemetery with dilapidated graves and granite headstones. Annika quickly estimated there were around thirty of them. Nature had virtually taken over; the place looked overgrown and neglected. The enclosure was no more than thirty by forty yards, the fence at the far end no more than five feet high. The entrance was on the west side, facing Kronobergsgatan and Fridhemsplan. She saw a team from their main tabloid rival stop at the cordon. A group of men in plain clothes were inside the cemetery, on the east side. That's where the woman's body lay. Annika shuddered. She couldn't afford to screw this up, her first proper tip-off. Just as Berit and Bertil Strand came up behind her, she saw a man open the gates down on Kronobergsgatan. He was carrying a gray tarpaulin. Annika gasped. They hadn't covered her up yet! "Quick!" she called over her shoulder. "We might be able to get some pictures from up here." A police officer appeared on the hill in front of them. He was unrolling the blue-and-white tape. Annika rushed up to the fence, hearing Bertil Strand jogging heavily behind her. The photographer used the last few yards to wriggle out of the backpack and fish out a Canon and a telephoto lens. The man with the gray tarpaulin was only three yards away when Bertil fired off a sequence of pictures in among the bushes. He moved a yard to the side and fired off another. The officer with the tape yelled something; the men inside the cemetery were made aware of their presence. "It's in the bag," Bertil Strand said. "We've got enough." "Hey, you, goddammit!" the officer with the tape called out. "We're cordoning off this area!" A man in a flowery Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts came toward them from inside the cemetery. "That's enough now, guys," he said. Annika looked around, not knowing what to do. Bertil Strand was already on his way to the footpath leading down to Sankt Göransgatan. Both the man in front of her and the police officer behind her looked mad. She realized she would have to start to leave soon, or they would make her. Instinctively, she moved sideways to where Strand had taken his first shots. She peered in between the black iron bars, and there she was, the dead woman. Her eyes were staring into Annika's from a distance of ten feet. They were clouded and gray. Her head was thrown back, the upper arms stretched out above her head; one of her hands seemed to have injuries to it. Her mouth was wide open in a mute cry; the lips were a brownish black. She had a big bruise on the left breast and the lower part of her stomach had a greenish hue. Annika took in the entire picture, crystal clear, in a moment. The coarseness of the gray stone in the background; the sultry summer vegetation; the shadow play of the foliage; the humidity and the heat; the revolting stench. Then the tarpaulin made the whole scene gray. They weren't covering the body with it, but the fence. "Time to move on," the officer with the tape said, placing a hand on her shoulder. What a cliché, Annika found herself thinking as she turned around. Her mouth was dry. She noticed that all sounds were coming from a long way off. She moved, as if floating, toward the path where Berit and Bertil Strand were waiting behind the cordon, the photographer with a bored look of disapproval, Berit almost smiling. The policeman followed her, his shoulder against her back. Annika thought it must be hot in uniform on a day like this. "Did you manage to get a look?" Berit asked. Annika nodded and Berit wrote something in her pad. "Did you ask the detective in the Hawaiian shirt anything?" Annika shook her head and ducked under the cordon, kindly assisted by the policeman. "Pity. Did he say anything?" "'That's enough now, guys,'" Annika quoted him. Berit smiled. "What about you, are you okay?" Annika nodded. "Sure, I'm fine. And she could very well have been strangled; her eyes were almost popping out of their sockets. She must have tried to scream before she died -- her mouth was wide open." "So maybe someone heard her. We could try the neighbors later. Was she Swedish?" Annika needed to sit down for a moment. "I forgot to ask..." Berit smiled again. "Blond, dark, young, old?" "Twenty, at most. Long blond hair. Big breasts. Silicone implants, probably, or saline." Berit gave her an inquiring look. Annika dropped down on the grass, legs crossed. "They were pointing straight up even though she was flat on her back. She had a scar in her armpit." Annika felt her blood pressure drop and leaned her head against her knees and did some deep breathing. "Not a pretty sight, eh?" Berit said. "I'm okay." After a minute or so, Annika felt better. The sounds came back to her in full force, hitting her brain with the earsplitting noise of a car factory: the roaring traffic on Drottningholmsvägen; two sirens blasting out of time; loud voices, their pitch rising and falling; clattering cameras; a child crying. Bertil Strand had joined the small media posse that was forming down by the entrance to the cemetery; he was chatting to the Rival's photographer. "What happens next? Who does what?" Annika asked. Berit sat down next to Annika, looked at her notes, and began outlining their work. "We've got to assume it's a murder, right? So we'll have a story on the actual event. This has happened: a young woman has been found murdered. When, where, and how? We need to know who found her and talk to him -- have you got the guy's name?" "A speed freak; his pal gave a care-of address for the tip-off money." "Try and get hold of him. The emergency switchboard will have all the information on the call-out," Berit continued, ticking off her notes. "I've got that already." "Great. Then we need to get hold of a cop who will talk. Their press officer never says anything off the record. Did the Hawaii detective tell you his name?" "Nope." "Shame. Find out. I've never seen him before -- he could be one of the new guys at Krim. Then we need to find out when she died and why. Have they got any suspects? What's next in the investigation? All the police aspects of the story." "Okay," Annika said, taking notes. "Christ, it's hot! It never gets this hot in Stockholm," Berit said, wiping the sweat from her forehead. "I wouldn't know. I only moved here seven weeks ago." Berit took out a Kleenex from her bag and wiped around her hairline. "Okay -- we have the victim. Who was she? Who identified her? She'll have a family somewhere, no doubt brokenhearted. We should consider contacting them one way or another. We need pictures of the girl while she was alive. Was she over eighteen, would you say?" Annika gave it some thought and remembered the plastic breasts. "Yes, probably." "Then there'll be pictures of her from high school, wearing her white graduation cap. Talk to her friends. Find out if she had a boyfriend." Annika took notes. "Then there's the reaction of the neighbors," Berit went on. "This is practically downtown Stockholm, over three hundred thousand women live here. This type of crime will affect people's sense of security, their eating-out habits and whatnot. City life in general. That's two separate stories. You do the neighbors and I'll do the rest." Annika nodded without looking up. "There's one more angle," Berit said, dropping her pad into her lap. "Twelve or thirteen years ago, a very similar murder was committed less than a hundred yards away." Annika looked up in surprise. "If my memory serves me right, a young woman was sexually assaulted and murdered on some steps somewhere on the north side of the park," Berit mused. "The murderer was never caught." "Jesus! Do you think there's a chance it could be the same guy?" Berit shrugged. "I wouldn't think so, but we'll have to mention it. I'm sure lots of people remember it. The woman was raped and strangled." Annika swallowed. "What an appalling job this is." "It sure is. But it'll get a bit easier if you can get hold of that guy before he leaves." Berit was pointing toward Sankt Göransgatan, where the man in the Hawaiian shirt was leaving the cemetery. He was walking toward a car that was parked around the corner in Kronobergsgatan. Annika leaped to her feet, grabbed her bag, and rushed down toward the street. She saw the reporter from the Rival attempting to talk to the cop, but he just waved him away. At that moment, Annika stumbled on a ridge in the asphalt and nearly fell over. She staggered down the steep hill toward Kronobergsgatan with huge, uncontrolled steps. Unable to stop herself, she crashed into the back of the Hawaiian shirt. The cop fell straight over the hood of his car. "What the hell!" he yelled. He turned around and grabbed Annika around the upper arms. "I'm sorry," she whimpered. "I didn't mean to. I nearly fell." "What the hell's the matter with you? Are you crazy or something?" He was shocked and startled. "I'm so sorry," Annika said. As well as the humiliation, her left ankle suddenly hurt like hell. The officer regained his composure and let go of her. He scrutinized her for a few seconds. "You should watch your goddamn step," he said, then got into his burgundy Volvo station wagon and drove off, tires screeching. "Shit," Annika whispered to herself. She squinted into the sun, trying to distinguish the fleet number of the car. She thought she saw 1813 written on the side. To be on the safe side, she also looked at the registration number and tried to memorize it. Annika turned around and realized that the little group of media people by the cemetery entrance were all staring at her. She blushed from her hairline down to her neck. She quickly bent over and collected the things that had fallen out of her bag when she'd collided with the cop: her notepad, a packet of chewing gum, a near empty bottle of Pepsi, and three sanitary napkins in green plastic covers. Her pen was still in the bag, so she hauled it out and quickly jotted down the registration and fleet numbers of the car. The reporters and photographers stopped staring at her and resumed chatting among themselves. Annika noted that Bertil Strand was organizing an ice cream run. She threw her bag across her shoulder and slowly approached her colleagues, who didn't seem to be paying her any attention now. Apart from the reporter from the rival tabloid, a middle-aged man who had his picture byline next to his stories, she didn't recognize a single one of them. There was a young woman with a tape recorder marked Radio Stockholm; two photographers from two different picture agencies; the Rival's photographer; and three other reporters that she couldn't place at all. No TV teams were present -- the public television local news only did a five-minute broadcast a day during the summer, and the local commercial stations only did agency stories. The morning broadsheets would probably get pics from the agencies and supplement with TT copy. The public radio news show Eko hadn't sent anyone, nor would they, she knew that. One of Annika's former colleagues at the local paper where she normally worked had been employed there as a casual one summer. Contemptuously, she had explained to Annika, "We leave murders and that kind of thing to the tabloids. We're not scavengers." Already, back then, Annika had realized that this statement said more about her colleague than about Eko, but sometimes she wondered. Why shouldn't public radio find the curtailed life of a young woman worth covering? She couldn't understand it. The rest of the people lining the cordons were curious passersby. She slowly moved past and away from the group. The police -- both the Krim, the criminal investigation department, and the forensic people -- were busy inside the fence. No ambulance was in sight. She looked at her watch: seventeen minutes past one. Twenty-five minutes since she had received the tip-off on Creepy Calls. She wasn't sure what she was supposed to do next. It didn't seem like a good idea to talk to the police now; they'd only get annoyed at her. She realized that they didn't know much yet, not who the woman was, how she'd died, or who'd done it. She moved toward Drottningholmsvägen. There was a wedge of shade next to the houses on the west side of Kronobergsgatan; she went over and leaned against the wall. It was rough and hot. It was only fractionally cooler here and the air still burned her throat. She was thirsty beyond belief and pulled out the Pepsi bottle from her bag. The screw top had leaked and the bottle was tacky, making her fingers stick to the label. Damn this heat! She drank the warm, sugary liquid and then hid the bottle in a doorway among some bags with newspapers left out for recycling. The reporters over by the police line had moved to the opposite side of the street. They had to be waiting for Bertil Strand. For some reason, the situation made her sick. Ten yards away, the flies were buzzing around a dead body while the media people were looking forward to their ice cream. Her gaze wandered over the park. Its steep, grassy hills were dotted with clumps of large trees. From her place in the shade she could distinguish lime, beech, elm, and birch. Some of the trees were huge; others were newly planted. The trees growing among the graves were mainly gigantic lime. I've got to have something more to drink, she thought. She sat down on the sidewalk and leaned her head against the wall. Something had to happen soon. She couldn't stay here much longer. She looked at the media scrum; it was beginning to thin out. The girl from Radio Stockholm was gone and Bertil Strand had returned with the ice cream. Berit Hamrin was nowhere in sight; Annika wondered where she'd disappeared to. I'll wait for another five minutes, she thought. Then I'll go and buy something to drink before I start talking to the neighbors. She attempted to conjure up a map of Stockholm in her head, placing herself on it. This was the heart of Stockholm, the stony city within the old tollgates. She looked at the fire station to the south. It lay on Hantverkargatan, her own street. She lived only about half a mile away from here, on Kungsholms Square, at the back of the block of a building scheduled for renovation. Still, she'd never been here. Underneath her lay Fridhemsplan's subway station; if she concentrated, she could just about feel the trains' vibrations spreading through the concrete and asphalt. Straight in front she could see a ventilation shaft for the tunnels, a urinal, and a park bench. Maybe the guy who phoned in the tip sat there speeding in the hot sun with the pal who later went to take a piss. Why didn't he use the urinal? Annika asked herself. She thought about it for a while and eventually went over to take a look. When she opened the door, she knew why. The stench inside was absolutely unbearable. She recoiled and quickly shut the door. A woman with a stroller came walking from the playground toward Annika. The child in the stroller was holding a bottle containing a red liquid. Puzzled, the mother looked at the cordon along the sidewalk. "What happened?" she asked Annika. Annika straightened up and hoisted her bag higher up on her shoulder. "The police have cordoned off the area." "I can see that. Why?" Annika hesitated. She glanced over to the other reporters and saw that they were watching her. She quickly moved a few steps closer to the woman. "There's a dead woman in there," she said quietly, and pointed at the cemetery. The woman turned pale. "No kidding?" "Do you live around here?" "Yes, just around the corner. We went down to Rålambshov Park, but the place was so crowded you couldn't sit down, so we came here instead. Is she in there now?" The woman craned her neck and tried to see in between the lime trees. Annika nodded. "Jesus, that's so creepy!" the woman exclaimed, and looked at Annika with big eyes. "Do you often come this way?" "Sure, every day. My son, Skruttis, goes to playgroup in the park." The woman couldn't tear her eyes away from the cemetery. Annika watched her for a few moments. "Did you hear anything out of the ordinary last night or this morning? Any cries in the park or stuff like that?" The woman pushed out her lower lip, gave it some thought, and then shook her head. "This neighborhood is always quite noisy. During the first few years I used to wake up every time the fire brigade turned out, but not anymore. Then there's the drunks down on Sankt Eriksgatan. Not the winos that live in the hostel -- they're knocked out long before nighttime -- but the regular drinkers going home. They can keep you awake all night. But the worst is the ventilation system at McDonald's. It's on all night and it's driving me insane. How did she die?" "No one knows yet," Annika said. "So there were no screams, no one crying for help or anything?" "Oh, sure there were. There's always a lot of bawling around here on Friday nights. Here you go, honey..." The child had dropped its bottle and was whining; the mother picked it up and put it back in his hands. She nodded toward Bertil Strand and the others. "Are they the hyenas?" "Yep. The guy with the ice cream cone's my photographer. And I'm Annika Bengtzon from Kvällspressen." She held out her hand and the two women shook hands. Despite her contemptuous remark, the woman seemed impressed. "I'm Daniella Hermansson. Pleased to meet you. Are you going to write about this?" "Yes, or somebody else at the paper will. Do you mind if I take some notes?" "No, go ahead." "Can I quote you?" "I spell it with two l's and two s's -- just like it sounds." "So you say it's always noisy around here?" Daniella Hermansson stood on tiptoe and tried to peek at Annika's notepad. "Oh, yeah, extremely noisy, especially on the weekend." "So if someone were to cry for help, no one would react?" Daniella Hermansson pushed out her lower lip again and shook her head. "It would depend a bit on what time it was. By four, half past five, it calms down. Then it's just the ventilation system making a noise. I sleep with the window open all the year round -- it's good for the skin. But I didn't hear anything." "Do your windows face the front or the back?" "Both. We're in the corner apartment on the third floor there. The bedroom faces the back, though." "And you walk past here every day, you say?" "Yes, I'm still on maternity leave, and all the mothers in my parenting group meet in the playground every morning. But, darling..." The child had finished the red liquid and was howling like a siren. His mother bent down and with practiced movements put her middle finger down the back of the child's diaper, then pulled the finger out and smelled it. "Whoops. It's time for us to go home. A new diaper and a little snooze, eh, Skruttis?" Skruttis fell silent as he found a ribbon from his hat to chew on. "Could we take your picture?" Annika quickly asked. Daniella Hermansson's eyes grew wide. "My picture? You're kidding?" She laughed and pulled her hand through her hair. Annika looked her straight in the eye. "The woman lying in that cemetery has probably been murdered. We feel it's important to give an accurate description of the neighborhood. I live down on Kungsholms Square myself." Daniella Hermansson's eyes nearly popped out of her head. "Murdered? Jesus Christ! Here, on our block?" "No one knows exactly where she died, only that her body was discovered here." "But this is such a good neighborhood," Daniella Hermansson said, and bent down to pick up her son. The boy lost his ribbon and began howling again. Annika held on to her bag and started walking over to Bertil Strand. "Wait here," she said to Daniella over her shoulder. The photographer was busy licking the inside of the ice cream wrapper when Annika reached him. "Can you come with me for a moment?" she said quietly. Bertil Strand slowly scrunched up the wrapper in a ball and pointed to the man next to him. "Annika, this is Arne Påhlson, reporter at the Rival. Have you met?" Annika cast down her eyes, held out her hand, and mumbled her name. Arne Påhlson's hand was moist and warm. "Have you finished your ice cream?" Annika asked tartly. Bertil Strand's suntan got one shade darker. He didn't like being rebuked by someone who wasn't even on the staff of the paper. Instead of replying, he just bent down and picked up his backpack. "Where are we going?" Annika turned around and walked back to Daniella. Annika glanced up at the cemetery; the plainclothes police were still there talking to each other. The child was still bawling, but his mother wasn't paying him any attention. She was busy painting her lips with a lipstick from a little light green box with a mirror on the inside of the lid. "So how does it feel to find out that a dead woman's lying outside your bedroom window?" Annika asked with her pen poised on the pad. "Awful," Daniella said. "I mean, all the nights my girlfriends and I have returned home after a night out. It could have been any one of us." "Will you be more careful now?" "Definitely," Daniella said without hesitation. "I'll never walk through that park at night again. Sweetheart, what's the matter now?" Daniella bent down to pick up her boy again. Annika took notes and felt the hair on her neck stand on end. This was quite good, actually. It might even make a headline if she cut it a bit. "Thanks a million," she said quickly. "Can you look at Bertil? What's your boy's name? How old is he? How old are you? And how would you like us to refer to you?...'On maternity leave.' Okay. Maybe you shouldn't look quite so happy..." Daniella Hermansson's practiced movie-star smile, the one she probably adopted for all holiday and Xmas snaps, faded. Instead, she looked confused and lost. Bertil Strand was snapping away, circling the woman and her child with short, cautious dance steps. "Can I call you later if anything comes up? What's your phone number? And the code for the door from the street? You know, just in case." Daniella Hermansson put the child in the stroller and walked off alongside the police cordon. To her annoyance, Annika saw Arne Påhlson from the Rival stop the woman as she walked past. Luckily, the child was by now howling so badly that the woman wouldn't wait for a second interview. Annika breathed again. "Don't try to teach me my job," Strand said to Annika. "Fine. But tell me, what would have happened if they'd taken the body away while you were busy buying ice cream for the competition?" Bertil Strand gave her a contemptuous look. "In the field we're not competitors. Out here we're colleagues." "I think you're wrong. We lose out if we hunt as a pack. We ought to keep more to ourselves, all of us." "No one would gain anything by that." "Well, I think it would help our credibility with our readers." Bertil Strand swung the cameras onto his shoulder. "Well, thanks for telling me. I've only been at the paper for fifteen years." Shit! Annika thought as the photographer walked back to his "colleagues." Why can't I ever keep my big mouth shut? She suddenly felt dizzy and weak. I've got to get something to drink, and fast, she thought. To her great relief, she saw Berit walking toward her from the direction of Hantverkargatan. "Where have you been?" Annika called out, moving in her direction. "I went back to the car to make some calls. I ordered up the cuttings on the other murder and had a chat with a few police contacts." In vain, Berit was trying to cool herself by waving her hand in front of her face. "Anything happen?" "I talked to a neighbor. That's all." "Have you had anything to drink? You look a bit pale." Annika wiped the sweat from her brow. Suddenly she felt close to tears. "I really stuck my foot in it with Bertil Strand just now," she said in a subdued voice. "I said that we shouldn't mingle with our competitors at a crime scene." "I agree with you. Bertil Strand doesn't, I know that. He can be a bit difficult to work with sometimes, but he's a good photographer. Why don't you go and get something to drink? I'll hold the fort." Annika gratefully left Kronobergsgatan and walked down along Drottningholmsvägen. She was in line to buy a bottle of mineral water in the kiosk on Fridhemsplan when she saw the ambulance turn left on Sankt Göransgatan and head for the park. "Shit!" she cried out, and ran straight out into the traffic, forcing a taxi to slam on the brakes. She crossed Sankt Eriksgatan and headed back to the park. She thought she was going to faint before she reached it. The ambulance had stopped at the top of Sankt Göransgatan; a man and a woman got out. "Why are you so out of breath?" Berit asked. "The car! The body!" Annika panted, bending over with her hands on her knees, gasping for air. Berit sighed. "The ambulance will be here for a while. The body isn't going to disappear. Don't worry -- we won't miss anything." Annika dropped her bag onto the sidewalk and straightened up. "I'm sorry." Berit smiled. "Go and sit down in the shade. I'll go and buy you something to drink." Annika slunk away and sat down. She felt like an idiot. "I didn't know," she mumbled. "I don't know how this works." She sat down on the sidewalk and leaned against the wall again. The ground burned her through her thin skirt. The man and the woman from the ambulance were waiting inside the cordon, just inside the entrance to the cemetery. Three men remained inside the iron fence. Annika guessed that two of them were forensic people and the third one a photographer. They moved with great care, bending over, picking things up, straightening up. She was too far away to see exactly what they were doing. A few minutes later Berit returned with a big, ice-cold Coke. Annika unscrewed the top and drank so quickly that the bubbles rose the back way and came out of her nose. She coughed and spluttered, spilling Coke on her skirt. Berit sat down next to her and took out a bottle of her own from her bag. "What are they doing in there?" Annika asked. "Securing evidence. They use as few people as possible and move around as little as they can. Usually there's only two crime scene technicians and maybe an investigator from Krim." "Could that have been the guy in the Hawaiian shirt?" "Maybe," Berit said. "If you look closely, you'll see that one of the technicians is holding his hand close to his mouth. He's using a Dictaphone, recording everything he sees at the scene. It could be an exact description of the position of the body, the way the clothes are creased. Things like that." "She wasn't wearing any clothes." "Maybe the clothes were scattered around, they record that kind of thing too. When they've finished, the body will be moved to the forensic medical unit in Solna." "For autopsy?" Berit nodded. "The technicians will stay behind and comb the whole park. They'll go over it inch by inch to secure any traces of blood, saliva, hairs, fibers, semen, footprints, tire imprints, fingerprints -- anything you can think of." Annika watched the men inside the fence in silence. They were leaning over the body; she could see their heads bob up and down against the background of the gray tarpaulin. "Why did they cover the fence instead of the body?" "They don't cover up the body at the scene of a crime unless it's going to rain or snow. It's all about evidence; they're trying to disturb the area as little as possible. The screen is only to shut the place off from people's view. It makes sense." Then, suddenly, the technicians and the photographer all stood up. "It's time," Berit said. All the journalists got up simultaneously. Everybody went up to the cordon as if at a given signal. The photographers all loaded the cameras that hung around their necks. A few new journalists had joined the group; Annika counted five photographers and six reporters. One of them, a young guy, had a laptop marked TT, the news agency, and a woman was holding a notepad with the logo of the broadsheet Sydsvenskan on it. The man and the woman from the ambulance opened the back doors and pulled out a collapsible gurney. Calmly and methodically, they unfolded it, pushing the various clasps into place. Annika felt the hair on her arms stand on end. A puff of fizz from the Coke rose into her mouth and made her burp. They'll roll out the body any moment now. She was ashamed of her morbid excitement. "Could you move to the side?" the woman with the gurney said. Annika looked down at the gurney rolling past. It shook as the wheels crunched over the uneven asphalt. On top of it lay a neatly folded bluish gray plastic sheet. The shroud, Annika thought, a cold thrill traveling up her spine. The man and the woman ducked under the cordon. The orange sign saying No Entry swung after them. The ambulance drivers reached the body. The men and the woman stood in a group discussing something. Annika felt the sun burn on the back of her arms. "Why is it taking so long?" she asked Berit in a stage whisper. Berit didn't reply. Annika took up the Coke bottle and drank some. "Isn't it horrible?" the woman from Sydsvenskan said. "Oh, yeah, it is," Annika said. The ambulance people unfolded the plastic sheet and spread it over the gurney, its bluish gray, shiny surface flapping among the leaves. They lifted the young woman onto the gurney and wrapped her in the sheet. Annika suddenly felt tears come into her eyes. She saw the woman's mute scream, her clouded eyes, the bruised breasts. I mustn't start crying now, she thought, and stared hard at the worn gravestones. She tried to distinguish names or dates, but the inscriptions were in Hebrew. The delicate characters had almost been erased over time by the elements. All at once, everything went very quiet. Even the traffic down on Drottningholmsvägen stopped for a moment. The sunlight that filtered through the enormous crown of the lime trees was dancing across the granite. The cemetery was here before the city surrounding it. And the trees were here, smaller and frailer, when the dead were buried. But their leaves would have performed the same shadow play on the stone when these graves had just been dug. The gates were opening and the photographers got down to work. One of them pushed past Annika, jabbing an elbow so hard in her midriff that she lost her breath for a moment. Taken by surprise, she stumbled backward and lost sight of the gurney. She quickly moved farther away. Which direction is her head pointing? Annika found herself wondering. They wouldn't roll her away feet first. The photographers accompanied the gurney alongside the cordon. All the camera motors were rattling out of time; the odd flash went off. Bertil Strand was jumping up and down behind his colleagues, alternately snapping away above their heads and in between them. Annika held on to the back door of the ambulance; the paintwork burned her fingers. The driver stopped five inches away from her, operating the various mechanisms of the car. Annika noticed that he was perspiring. She looked down at the plastic-covered body. I wonder if the sun has kept her warm, she thought. I wonder who she was. I wonder if she knew she was going to die. I wonder if she had time to be scared. All at once, tears were rolling down Annika's face. She let go of the door, turned around, and took a few steps away. The ground was moving, she felt as if she was going to throw up. "It's the smell. And the heat," Berit said, suddenly at her side. She put her arm around Annika's shoulders and pulled her away from the ambulance. Annika wiped away the tears. "Let's go back to the paper," Berit said. Copyright © 1999 by Liza Marklund Excerpted from Studio Sex by Liza Marklund All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.