READ AT YOUR OWN RISK BY STEFAN AHNHEM

Stefan Ahnhem is an established screenwriter. He has worked in both TV and film, with everything from comedy to thriller and with original ideas as well as adaptations. He also serves on the board of the Swedish Writers Guild. Victim Without a Face is his first novel. He will be taking part in the Endeavour Press Crime Fiction Festival.

Why don’t I want to tell my readers how many books there will be in the Fabian Risk series?

This is without doubt the question I get most often. I would say it’s more common than a rainy day in London. In fact, in one interview, the journalist asked me this very same question three times. And every time I gave her the same answer: I’m sorry, but this is something I won’t reveal.

Some of you might think that I don’t know. But I can assure you that this isn’t the case at all. In fact, I know exactly when everything will be over. So why can’t I just answer this simple question? After all, almost all of my crime writing colleagues seem to have no problem with it. Jussi Adler Olsen said there will be ten books in his Q-series. Arne Dahl and Camilla Läckberg said the same. The list could go on and on.

But think about it for a minute. Why do people like reading thrillers, crime novels and stories full of suspense?

Well, I know why I read so many books in this genre. I want to be scared – and not just in theory. No, I want to be genuinely scared that there may not be a happy ending. When I consider the consequences of my hero failing. I want this possibility to seem very real, and I want to bite my nails as I wait to see whether he or she will survive in the end. When this technique works, I’m completely transported to the world of the story, and I forget that I’m quite safe in my favourite reading chair in front of the warm fire with a pot of tea on the table. The book is suddenly unputdownable, and I can’t do anything but keep on reading until the end.

Now, let’s say you know that there will be three more books in the same series. If you know this, you can be pretty sure that the hero will most likely survive no matter what. It doesn’t matter if she – like Lisbeth Salander – gets shot in the head and buried alive. It doesn’t matter if he gets blown into atoms. One way or another, the protagonist will live.

I don’t know about you, but for me this knowledge kills some of the suspense. It’s a bit like watching a football game when you already know how it will end (try revealing the result to a Leeds United fan watching the rerun and you’ll be in serious trouble).  Or, to bring it back to my cosy armchair by the fire, it’s like reading with a safety helmet and a life vest on, where you are always protected against the worst that could happen.

As you have probably figured out by now, this will not be the case when you read about Fabian Risk. You won’t know when it will end, so you won’t be able to predict what will happen next. Will it be a happy ending? You’ll have to wait and see.

In other words, you’ll have to read it at your own Risk.

Find out more about Stefan by following him on Twitter: @StefanAhnhem

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