Beyond All Reasonable Doubt
1998. Fifteen year-old Katrin Björk is found murdered in her home. The police get an early break in the case when Stig Ahlin, a thirty-five year-old doctor, comes forward and admits he had been involved with the victim. When the police discover Ahlin’s former wife had accused him of sexually abusing their four year-old daughter, Ahlin becomes their primary suspect in the murder case.
Thirteen years later, defense attorney Sophia Weber’s old law professor asks her to take on Ahlin’s appeals case. At first, she is incredulous – Stig Ahlin, or “Professor Death” as he had been dubbed in newspapers at the time of the murder, was known as one of the country’s most ruthless criminals. And even though Ahlin had maintained his innocence over the years, Sophia, just like the rest of the country, is convinced that the police got the right man. Making a successful petition for a new trial is a nearly impossible feat and Sophia has no desire to work a hopeless case with little or no compensation. But her old professor is adamant. He claims the investigation was poorly conducted and contained many inconsistencies. Moreover, Ahlin’s former legal council had done a less than perfect job defending his client.
Despite her misgivings, Sophia can’t help reading the case files. The more Sophia learns about the investigation, the more she starts to think that perhaps the police got the wrong man after all. And isn’t it every attorney’s dream to be able to help overturn a wrongful conviction? Sophia finally decides to take on the case and help Stig Ahlin with his appeal for a new trial.
As Sophia begins to poke holes in the investigation, interest from the media and the public for the old case is reawakened and she receives threatening emails from people who are enraged by the fact that she’s defending a paedophile and murderer. And even though Sophia finds many flaws in the police investigation, she still isn’t sure of her client. Is he really innocent? Or is she working to get a monster out of prison on a mere technicality?
Beyond All Reasonable Doubt is international bestselling author Malin Persson Giolito’s break-out novel about defence attorney Sophia Weber. Through a bone-chilling story that grabs hold of the reader from the very first page, Persson Giolito questions the judicial security we take for granted. Are we all equal before the law or can pressure from public opinion pervert the course of justice?
“Author of the 2017 prizewinning Quicksand, Giolito has come up with another knockout legal thriller. Here Sweden looks less like a socialist paradise and more like a society as screwed up as anyplace else. Bumbling cops and prosecutors convict a medical researcher for the grisly murder of a 15-year-old girl he had seduced. In the public’s opinion, Stig Ahlin is ‘Professor Death.’ So when lawyer Sophia Weber looks at the paltry evidence and agrees — 13 years after the crime was committed — to help the imprisoned professor petition for a new trial, the reaction, online and among friends, is ferociously negative. Weber is a wonderfully textured creation, a poignant mix of determined braininess and nagging doubts. Giolito’s finale is a smidgen more ambiguous than some readers will want, but maybe this means Sophia Weber will be back again — a very good thing.”
The Washington Post (US)
“Persson Giolito maximises suspense by toggling between the original investigation and Sophia’s ever more ambivalent follow-up.”
”With a messy personal life and a sharp legal mind, Weber is the moral center of Malin Persson Giolito’s Swedish thriller Beyond All Reasonable Doubt. The novel tracks a mission to right a wrong and plunges into the egos, deceptions, lies, vendettas, presumptions and questionable police work that pervade a legal system and society’s need for retribution. […] Ahlin’s case is a criminal and moral puzzle about guilt and shades of innocence. A man is many things, but if he is arrested for a heinous act, the world reduces him to caricature. He faces swift assumptions and fabulist headlines, and even the legal system designed to protect his rights succumbs to its own imperfections and inconsistencies. Agendas flash here and there like a circus tilted from is bearings.”
LOS ANGELES TIMES (US)
“She’s tougher than she first appears, as is Sophia Weber, the lawyer at the center of Beyond All Reasonable Doubt, a somewhat arid, if absorbing, legal thriller from the Swedish writer Malin Persson Giolito that’s translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles. It pivots on the question: If a bad person is accused of a crime he did not commit, is justice for the accused the same thing as justice for society? […] It is both a strength and a frustration of Beyond All Reasonable Doubt that the author does not feel the imperative to explain too much or to tie her ending up in a neat bow. Instead, while by the end of the book the central question has been answered, even more have been posed — and not in the way that sets up a sequel (though that could happen), but in the way that imitates life, in all its messiness and obfuscation. […] you want to meet Sophia Weber again.”
The New York Times (US)
“In this searing legal thriller from Giolito, law professor Hans Segerstad persuades Stockholm defense attorney Sophia Weber, a former student, to try to prove the innocence of Stig Ahlin […] This meticulously crafted novel proves Segerstad’s bitterly ironic claim made at the time he asks Sophia to take on the case: ‘How could Stig Ahlin be innocent? Our police always tell the truth, our prosecutors are never careless, and the opinions of our judges never fail. Everything is perfect in our country.’ Fans of Nordic noir won’t want to miss this one.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review (US)
“A lawyer scrutinizes the investigation and trial that imprisoned a scientist for murdering a teen in this intriguing legal thriller. […] The author shows unusual restraint in keeping violence offstage while keeping the reader guessing right up to the two very different twists that make for a gut-punching finale. […] An ongoing series would be welcome given the author’s legal savvy, well-drawn characters, and insightful look at the subtle variations of guilt. No courtroom fireworks but smart, well-written legal and procedural drama.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review (US)