The case of the bestselling ‘Swedish’ crime novel: Is it fake?

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This post has been corrected, as noted below.

Get Lisbeth Salander on the case! In Russia, a Swedish crime novel described as a cross between “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a bestseller with mysterious origins, including fake Swedish blurbs.

This summer, the Swedish thriller “Red Is the Color of Pain” by Eva Hansen -- or “Eva Hansen” -- has been inescapable in Russia. Ads throughout the city and on the metro show a woman’s red lips and trumpet that the book is “The most impressive Swedish detective novel since Stieg Larsson!” and “This Stockholm is a city of sin, feeling and furious passions that Swedish literature has never before known.”


Yet like every good crime thriller, there’s a twist: These blurbs happen to be fake. They are credited to “Svenski Nyheter” (Swedish News) and Öppna TV Stockholm, two news sources that don’t exist. And who is author Eva Hansen?

The book was released by Eksmo, Russia’s biggest publishing house, after being prepared by smaller imprint Yauza. It has a large print run of 20,000 copies.

According to the Moscow News, there is nothing indicating that the book is a translation on its copyright page -- and “even the copyright is written in Russian.”

Another clue: The book references one of author Astrid Lindgren’s children’s book creations, the rooftop inhabited by Karlsson. The character isn’t so popular in Sweden, but he is beloved in Russia.

In an interview with the Moscow News, Yauza head Alexander Koshelev admitted that “Eva Hansen” was a pseudonym for a Russian writer. “The person didn’t really want to go public because of the content of the book ... a lot of the erotic scenes are described in a very juicy way.”

As for the fake blurbs, Koshelev was unconcerned. “Advertising is advertising,” he said. “A lot of books are printed with slogans claiming they had a certain rank on the New York Times bestseller list, and no one checks whether it’s true.”


That’s one thing that distinguishes “Eva Hansen” from “Robert Galbraith,” the crime novelist recently outed as Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling. Galbraith’s blurbs were real.

[For the record, 10:01 a.m. August 1: An earlier version of this post credited the Moscow Times rather than the Moscow News in one instance and has been corrected.]


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