This review was originally posted on Medium.
Leona: The Die is Cast, is the first book in the Leona trilogy written by Jenny Rogneby, a former Swedish police officer. As I read the novel, I wondered how much of the investigative process was informed by actual police procedures in Sweden, based on the author’s experiences and how much was embellished for the sake of the story. I’ve long been a fan of Scandinavian thrillers and most of the books that I’ve read from this genre are police procedurals, with women protagonists or authors. Luckily, the Leona series has both and is filled with the unexpected twists and turns that one comes to expect from Scandinavian thrillers.
One aspect of this book that sets it apart from others is that you know that you’re dealing with multiple unreliable narrators almost immediately. Leona, the main character, is a very observant police detective but her inability to read emotions or openly empathize with others alerts the reader to the idea that not all may be as it seems from her perspective. When analyzing the way that Leona interacts with her peers and family, it is very clear that she has suffered from some trauma, but the circumstances under which this occurred are suspicious as Leona’s prejudices against her family members vary in reason and scope, yet she treats them all similarly. Her childhood trauma is central to the story because it influences much of her current interactions and explains why she has latched onto the idea of living a ‘normal’ life. The book’s second unreliable narrator is the young girl who commits bank robberies (the main mystery of the novel). Because the girl, Olivia, is so young and trusting, there are aspects of the story that don’t quite add up from her perspective. Her point-of-view chapters leave the reader just as unclear about her plight as she is.
Just when you think that you may have a grip on what is happening in each narrator’s story arc, a major twist is revealed nearly 90 pages in. This twist sets up decisions that must be made by several different characters and makes the book hard to put down from then on. The twist also alerts you to how much each character in this book could really benefit from the help of a mental health professional. While Leona and Olivia’s traumas are clearly rooted in issues from their childhood, their support systems either disregard or are in denial about how their actions threaten Leona and Olivia’s mental acuity. The author does a great job in not only structuring their actions to be questionable but also puts the reader into their minds where we can see that their thoughts are incomplete or disjointed.
While I cannot write much more without giving away too much of the plot and mystery, I promise that the way the story ends will have you vested in what could happen next. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good mystery that keeps them off balance and puts them in a perspective that they may be unfamiliar with. It’s refreshing to find an author that keeps their readers just as on edge as they do their characters.