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Joakim Zander (1975) was born in Stockholm, Sweden and was raised in the small town of Söderköping but, growing up, he also lived in Syria and Israel and was a high-school exchange student in the USA. After completing his military service in the Swedish Navy, he studied law at Uppsala University and later earned a PhD in Law from Maastricht University. Cambridge University Press published his dissertation, The Application of the Precautionary Principle in Practice, which was awarded the Rabobank Prize. Zander has worked for the European Parliament and the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium.

Zander’s debut novel, The Swimmer (2013), made a huge splash upon its release and has wowed readers in 30 countries. Zander has become known for his poetic language, nail-biting suspense, and believable insider look into the workings of big politics. His second thriller, The Believer, was published in 2015 and it was followed by The Friend in 2017.

In the spring of 2022, he launched a literary suspense novel: An Honest Life.



“Nothing short of brilliant.”
Litteratursiden (DK)

“An international thriller with the pace and intensity of a Jason Bourne adventure […] A compulsively readable page-turner with unexpected heart.”
Kirkus Reviews (US)

“The plot will resonate with readers appalled by the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the George W. Bush administration’s embrace of private firms like Blackwater. Tension and action abound. But it is the depth of Zander’s characters and the quality of the writing, which at times touches elegance, that make The Swimmer a winner. (It’s already a best-seller in Europe, with rights sold in 28 countries.) Zander looks to be a very talented new branch on the flourishing tree of Scandinavian crime fiction.”
Booklist (US)

“Swedish author Zander’s entertaining first novel owes more to Forsythe and Ludlum than to Larsson and Mankell. […] Given Zander’s literate, descriptive style, it’s easy to see why this thriller has been a bestseller in Europe.”
Publishers Weekly (US)

“After Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell and Jens Lapidus, there is  a great new voice in Scandinavian crime fiction: Joakim Zander.”
Metro (NL)

“Zander is stirring up the whole crime genre.”
Culturmag (DE)

“One of the most remarkable thriller-discoveries this year.”
Die Presse (DE)

“Already with this debut novel, Zander has created a political thriller set in many different locations that is so well-researched and brazenly exciting that it leaves the reader speachless.”
WZ-Newsline (DE)

“An absording chase thriller […] an excellent debut.”
The Times (UK)

“This is no orthodox Scandi noir; it is a novel with rare ambition and breadth. […] With a crackling denouement and strong characters, it richly deserves its reputation.”
Daily Mail (UK)

“Builds to exceptional tension.”
The Independent (UK)

“Perfect escapism.”
Aftonbladet (SE)

“With his debut novel, The Swimmer, Zander creates a multi-layered, action-packed thriller. Zander skillfully changes points of view, thereby revealing new information but never too much – until all the parts shape into the whole big picture in the end.”
Dorstener Zeitung (DE)

“Dazzling debut.”
Metro (IT)

“A full immersion into the classic spy story, masterfully written.”
La Republica (IT)

“Impressive […] A fast-paced thriller written in an international style. Joakim Zander has a good story to tell, a story that touches on moral questions as well as quilt and atonement, cupability and revenge.”
Borås Tidning (SE)

The Swimmer is well written and incredibly thrilling, but its strength also lies in a carefully rendered cast of characters and an ability to avoid the predictability of the genre.”
Skånska Dagbladet (SE)

“Urban, cosmopolitan environments are ideal for political thrillers, which Joakim Zander demonstrates with flying colors in The Swimmer – a story of war, love, and shifting political agendas.”
Jyllands-Posten (DK)

“What could easily have become a forced cliché is brought to life by debut novelist Joakim Zander’s rich language and spot-on plotting. Zander successfully depicts both flashy EU-Parliament mingles and stormy boat rides between islands where the stark cliffs have been sharpened by thick ice. In the midst of the breathless action, Zander also succeeds in writing flesh-and-blood characters that feel believable.”
Dalarnas Tidning (SE)

“A fluidly written, thrilling, and worthwhile read.”
Folkbladet (SE)

“It is so elegantly constructed that, while reading, I had to double-check that it really was a debut novel I was holding in my hands.”
Göteborgs-Posten (SE)

“Writing international, political thrillers – with many protagonists, different timelines, and separate narratives – is demanding. Swedish debut writer Joakim Zander masters his craft fully. The Swimmer is a book you simply cannot put down The first 250 pages are thrilling – the last 100 pages are intensely thrilling!”
Verdens Gang (NO)

“Zander’s latest page-turning political thriller weaves three interconnected stories into a hypertopical tale of international intrigue. […] Zander’s twisting, high-octane plot could not be more timely, but it’s the characters, all three of them, that bring this vivid novel to life. Suspenseful and primed for Hollywood adaptation, this is escapist fiction at its best.”
Kirkus (US)

“Zander has written another compelling, timely, and character-centered thriller, and many readers will look forward to what he does next.”
Booklist, Starred Review (US)

The Believer by Joakim Zander is a prime slice of Nordic noir. Zander is part of the influx of new blood into the genre, and this second novel is both forceful and subtle. […] What we have here are two crucial ingredients of Scandicrime: powerfully orchestrated tension set against a strong dose of social commentary.”
The Independent (UK)

The Believer is both excrutiatingly thrilling and tragically urgent. […] One of this year’s absolute must-reads.”
Skånska Dagbladet (SE)

“Elegantly constructed international thriller […] Sophisticated and eerily plausible.”
Dagens Nyheter (SE)

“An excellent thriller.”
Stern (DE)

“So well-written, so authentic; the language, our system of social codes, all rendered in minute detail. There is a saying that reality even beats fiction – here the author has written reality into the fiction and made the fiction into reality. Knowledge of societal structures appear like geological strata in this novel. This is more than a common suspense novel, it resonates deeply.”
Ölandsbladet (SE)

“With his cool narrative technique, the writer manages to maintain order in the midst of the explosion of events his story contains […] Because in Joakim Zander’s hands, all is crystal clear. Something that can hardly be said for all his predecessors in the genre.”
Norrköpings Tidningar (SE)

“It’s thrilling all the way, and Stig Larsson/David Lagercrantz can basically roll over when it comes to enthralling portrayals of our time with social critical overtones. Zander is better and more realistic.”
Gefle Dagblad (SE)

“Zander deals with burning themes of our present moments: he relates social failure with issues of international security. A thriller that taps into the times we live in.”
3SAT Kulturzeit Krimibuchtips (DE)

“That this book has been nominated for Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year is a no brainer. […] Joakim Zander is definitely one of our new stars, and he will absolutely make himself heard for many years to come.”
Dast Magazine (SE)

“A captivating crime novel about a society that’s falling apart, politically explosive and very moving.”

“An enthralling and relevant thriller with international overtones. […] Joakim Zander’s second book takes him straight to the top of Swedish suspense books that have social critique to convey and something to say. […] Moreover, the book is exceedingly elegantly constructed. The suspense is high. […] The characters live and breathe, and at the same time his portrayal of the ghetto and life there particularly convincing.”
Litteratursiden (DK)

“One of this year’s strongest Swedish crime novels is Joakim Zander’s The Believer, a thriller combining suspense, pace, and topical issues with characters you as a reader really care for. […] Thrilling and very well-written.”
Crimegarden (SE)

The Believer is a well-written, unnerving, and very believable story.”
Östgöta-Corren (SE)

“It’s Fadi’s story that really grabs hold of you and touches you, that creeps under your skin and stays there. […] The real suspense is found on a deeper level.”
Hallandsposten (SE)

“After the international success of his first novel, The Swimmer, Joakim Zander surprises us with this powerful thriller constructed and outlined down to the smallest detail. With a skill that’s characterizing for Zander, he takes the most pressing of current issues and transforms them into an enjoyable read.”
Todo Literatura (ES)

“He follows last year’s both captivating and thought-provoking thriller, The Swimmer, in a way that may not be as adrenaline-rushing, but in return scores high on factors such as atmosphere, tactile presence, and human gravity.”
Aftenposten (NO)

“Joakim Zander writes with genuine feeling. He does not use many words to bring about what he wants, yet he portrays atmosphere, thoughts and feelings in an unbelievably accurate way. The characters are believable, and the plot exciting to such a degree that I sat for five hours just to finish the book.”
Tine Sundal, Blog (NO)

“For the last twenty years, Henning Mankell has set the standard for this genre. Now Joakim Zander does.”

“Joakim Zander’s new thriller The Friend is an incredibly thrilling tale. […] If you’re a fan of topical issues and lots of action, then Joakim Zander’s engaging thriller The Friend is definitely the book for you!”
Hallo Buch (DE)

“Zander has once again written an incredibly thrilling and competent crime novel about his protagonist Klara Walldéen.”
Der Kultur Blog (DE)

“At the start of Zander’s thought-provoking standalone sequel to The Swimmer and The Believer, aspiring diplomat Jakob Seger, an intern assigned to the Swedish embassy in Beirut, arrives in Lebanon in August 2015, several months before the nightmarish ISIS attacks in France. […] Thriller fans who enjoy flawed, achingly human characters won’t be able to put this one down.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review (US)

“A moving love story and a gripping adventure, The Friend is an intelligent thriller that untangles the complexities of international politics and reveals the dark threats facing the world today.”
The Bookseller (UK)

“Swedish writer Joakim Zander is a truly polished thriller writer whose two former novels The Swimmer and The Brother move effortlessly between Europe and the Middle East, creating a sense of intrigue and contemporary espionage that is to be deeply lauded. His latest spectacular novel The Friend, the third in the Klara Walldeen series, again shows his skills at both building and sustaining a gripping story. And at the end of the fast-paced read, one is left wanting for more. […] Beirut is certainly not for the faint-hearted and Zander is adept at building up the atmosphere of this war-torn city that is at the same time a place of dark mystery, […] One can almost smell the damp emanating from the concrete, and alternately get a whiff of the heady aromas of the za’atar spice, the olive oil and the smell of freshly grilled kebabs in the myriad restaurants […] Zander has created an absolute winner in his latest – love, intrigue, a sense of right and wrong in a world where morals have developed different boundaries. His style is fabulously edgy and contemporary and he’s a real master in character building and in setting the scene for the different locales. A must read, and an intelligent one at that and, if you’re a lover of Homeland-style thrillers, well that’s a bonus.”
The Independent (ZA)

“The author controls his Beirut centered story with a superb sense for the possibilities of the political suspense novel.”
Jyllandsposten, 5/6 (DK)

“With The Friend, Joakim Zander finishes his outstanding trilogy about lawyer Klara Waldeen. […] There’s no way back for neither the protagonists nor the reader. You just have to read until the end. […] [Zander’s] cast of characters is authentic. He portrays his characters completely, even the things that hurt. Both for themselves and the reader. And he does so stunningly.”
Nordjyske Stiftstidene (DK)

“It’s a thrilling and well-written novel, and I feel slightly melancholic about the fact that Zander has reached the end of this trilogy.”
Fyens Stiftstidene (DK)

“A suspense novel that will be hard to forget. […] This is a high-class thriller. There’s love, war, spies, terrorism, threats, escapes – everything one can wish for. And once you start, you won’t put this book down.”
God Bog (DK)

“A solid look at spies, espionage and life in the middle east. The settings help make the story from Lebanon to Brussels to Sweden. The characters are well-defined and you find yourself rooting for Jacob to get through everything in one piece. My first time reading a novel by Joakim Zander and I am hooked. Look forward to future books from him.”
Red Carpet Crash (US)

“This story is in many ways prescient of our current moment. In a society where class divides are increasing at a never before seen pace, there is also growing resentment. It is an art, weaving in social critique that in many ways could be educational or moral without for that matter patronizing the reader. In An Honest Life, Joakim Zander delivers critique toward the system in which we are living while also portraying the allure of living outside the law without overly romanticizing or judging anything or anyone. In the same way, the framing with prologue and epilogue is genius – it gives the book an autobiographical touch that contributes an even greater sense of authenticity. […] An Honest Life is an intensely relatable story of the boredom of youth and the longing to feel alive. The hunt for magic, for kicks, and at the same time: an awakening from the naïvité of youth and black and white reasoning. About growing up, becoming your own person, staking out your course – to question the system on which society is built and at the same time lay bare the cracks in what is drawn up as utopian.”
Dagens Bok (SE)

“As a writer, Zander moves in the same territory as Stieg Larsson, or rather David Lagercrantz, who picked up the ’Millennium’-flag after Larsson’s death. Not only because Lisbet Salander is so clearly reflected in Max as a character, but because of the [novel’s] very romantic characteristic. (…) Zander expertly captures youth’s toilsome oscillation between the overestimation of self and feelings of worthlessness, identity confusion and thrill-seeking.”
Sydsvenskan (SE)

“It [the novel] centers around loneliness and a longing for fellowship. About a meaning in – with – life. It is also about being taken advantage of, both by the upperclass brats the young law-student lives with, but by the new friends as well. A gangster novel, really. But with multiple dimensions, levels and depth.”
Smålandsposten (SE)

“There is a momentum that makes the novel difficult to put down. The suspense is particularly present in our protagonist’s reflections, choices and insecurity. His desperate hunt for identity and community determines his existence and it is a breathless experience to stand on the sidelines and watch him cross the line. The mileus are skillfully depicted, such as the ‘You got male’- dinner with he rich dudes ordering catering from Grand Hotel while the small-town boy is stuck doing the dishes – or, for that matter, the anarchist group’s dinners in the professor’s town house.”
Göteborgs-Posten (SE)

“Zander problematizes different ways of thinking and ideals (…) during the latter half of the book, An Honest Life develops into a more direct crime novel, which is a genre that Zander already, based on his prior publications, masters.”
Hufvudstadsbladet (FI)



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2015 – Shortlisted for Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year for The Believer

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