An apartment viewing shouldn’t really turn into a hostage situation, but for the people who showed up for the viewing on that day, didn’t really expect a failed bank robber to burst in, sob loudly and exclaim, “I’m having quite a complicated day here!” and hold them hostage.
And, suddenly, everyone is anxious.
There is Zara, who is interested in only the view from the balcony of a bridge that holds a significant memory in her life. A bickering pregnant couple, Ro and Julie, worried if they’ll be good parents to their child, Estelle, an elderly woman who just misses her husband, and Roger and Anna-Lena, a couple who choose to flip houses instead of working on their marriage.
After the situation has ended, Jim and Jack, a father and son police duo, are called in. Confused, with no experience in hostage cases, they Google what to do.
They begin to interview the freed hostages; an equally delightful and maddening process, trying to find clues about the robber, who has left a trail of blood in his disappearance from the apartment.
Backman’s latest novel shines light on the fact that how a shared event can change the course of multiple people’s life even in the midst of their ongoing personal crisis. Narrated in third person, the plot is neat, meandering at times, but it always draws you in when you least expect it. From the police interviews and the backstories, we learn how the lives of the freed hostages are all connected, and their meeting at the apartment was nothing short of a serendipitous moment of fate.
The true beacon of his latest book, are the characters. Backman’s characters are always strongly written; he “heightens” their wackiness, the awkwardness, the ones who ask the ostensibly serious questions; surely a robber would know that you can’t really rob cash from a cashless bank? His characters are insightful, portraying pressing issues; anxiety in this book, with the touch of absurdity that becomes truer than life once the book ends.
It is just one of the surprising unexpected relatable quirks you find with this wonderful and delightful mess of people who went to view an apartment in a small town in Sweden on new year’s eve.
If you want to read more books where strangers come together in a searing act of serendipity, here are four books to delight your curiosity
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
In a remote spa, nine strangers gather for a 10-day fitness programme. Of them, Frances Welty, a romance novelist recovering from a heartbreak, is intrigued by the lives of her fellow guests and that of the enigmatic host, starts to uncover some awkward truths about the spa’s real agenda.
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
Called upon to care for her friend’s two stepchildren who possess the striking ability to spontaneously combust when upset, Lillian has the impossible task to pour water on fire when family revelations come to fore.
The Miracles of the Namiya General Store by Keigo Higashino, Sam Bett (Translator)
Three criminals find themselves holed up in a defunct store. When a letter slips in through the store’s mail slot, and they decide to reply, what begins is a journey of magical correspondence that will travels through time.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
A group of friends find themselves on their traditional holiday at a remote Scottish estate. Two days into the stay, one of their friends is dead leaving the rest with the morbid thought that one of their friends is the murderer.