In my opinion Mr. Jonasson has a knack for three things:
1) Writing characters who make the best out of the absolute worst. Take, for example, Nombeko, the heroine of this jaunty little tale. She was born in a South African slum, orphaned at ten, run over by a car, practically imprisoned for more than a decade, and then, just as she escapes, is accidentally saddled with a nuclear bomb (which is where this story really starts). And yet, she’s good with numbers, handy with a pair of scissors, smart enough to keep her eyes open and her mouth closed, crafty enough to escape alive, and lucky enough to meet the one man in all of Sweden who doesn’t give a fig about her rather dangerous luggage (and who also does not technically exist).
2) Connecting fictional story lines with factual events, no matter how unrelated, far fetched, or arbitrary they may be. For instance (and this is just one of many entertaining examples): Chinese carmaker Zhejiang Geely purchased Volvo from Sweden in 2010. Jonasson’s novel suggests that the purchase was somehow the result of the professional relationship between the fictional Nombeko and Hu Jintao, the real-life [past] President of the People’s Republic of China. (So… satire. He’s good at satire.)
3) Writing light-hearted comedy with such command of his craft that it loses nothing in translation (at least, I don’t think it does), and that even the most horrific scenes are reduced (or perhaps elevated) to hilarity. As such:
And because Mr. Jonasson is so good at these three things, I declare this book an absolute joy to read (despite the large doses of scientific and mathematical jargon and two very frustrating characters whom I will let you discover—and loathe—on your own).
No. 19 on my challenge. Because #2.