It’s been another strange year, hasn’t it? But it hasn’t been without interest. One highlight in Sweden has been the long-overdue appointment of a woman prime minister. Magdalena Andersson initially lasted one day (the budget was defeated in parliament). But now she’s back. Hopefully, this time she’ll last a while longer.

The way Covid has been handled in the UK and Sweden continues to differ. We witnessed at first hand what it was like in Sweden in the autumn, when we made our first trip over there in two years. Despite certain difficulties, it was a great feeling crossing the Öresund Bridge and reaching Swedish soil. It really did feel like going home. And like going back in time, as the Swedish Covid rules were noticeably less stringent. We spent six happy days with our son and family. They’ve now moved into the countryside outside Ystad. Naturally, it didn’t take me long to incorporate their new home into the next Anita Sundström adventure – I’m currently writing Mission in Malmö. My son is now quite resigned to me appropriating all the properties he’s ever lived in over the last twenty-odd years. And many of our Swedish friends have also been exploited in this way!

The start of the new book involves the armed robbery of a cash storage facility in Malmö. It was only when I began researching the subject that I realised it was not such a far-fetched idea. The first part of the book is set in 2006, and I discovered that, during the Naughties, there were literally hundreds of bank robberies in Sweden. There were some particularly big ones in 2005 and 2006, and over a hundred and fifty in 2008 alone!

Of course, one of the most famous heists is the one that gave us ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. The Kreditbanken on Norrmalmstorg was held up by gunman Jan-Erik Olsson in August 1973. Olsson entered the bank wearing makeup, a ladies’ wig and sunglasses. He ripped out a submachine gun, fired a round into the ceiling and shouted ‘The party starts!’. He took four hostages and demanded that his friend, the notorious criminal Clark Olofsson, be brought to him from prison, along with the equivalent of four million dollars. Amazingly, the authorities handed Olofsson over. Six days later, when the police rushed in with tear gas, the perpetrators gave themselves up. Interestingly, the police had been able to film much of what happened in the bank during the time the hostages were being held, and they were able to listen in on the remarkable conversations between the hostages and their captors, and how their relationships had developed and empathies formed.

In 2009, the G4S cash security depot in Västberga was the target for one of the most daring and audacious robberies of more recent times. A helicopter landed on the roof and the gang smashed their way through the reinforced glass window with a sledgehammer, took the money and flew off!
Of course, as Sweden has headed towards a cashless society, armed bank robberies are becoming a thing of the past. This, however, didn’t stop author, Fredrik Backman, adopting a more modern-day approach to the age-old concept in his amusing, witty and bittersweet book Anxious People, which is about the failed robbery of a cashless bank and the subsequent taking hostage of eight people innocently viewing an apartment for sale. The book has been one of my reading highlights this year.

Hopefully, 2022 will be a better year for everyone. God Yul to you all.