Oh really, Schyman thought. And I thought that's what the police are supposed to do.
By and large, I agree with Schyman. But the irony is that one of Schyman's reporters, Annika Bengtzon is about to expose a criminal in a most public and spectacular way. Indeed, for English readers, the denouement of Prime Time will be the fourth time in which Liza Marklund's character has solved a crime, as ever one step ahead of the police.
I like Annika and I like Marklund. Prime Time, written in 2002 but only now published in the UK, is in some ways a conventional 'whodunnit', featuring a murder in a stately home that follows a formula that would be familiar to Agatha Christie, but at the same time giving endless insights into journalism (at least as it is practiced in this Swedish fiction).
The central plot concerns the brutal murder of a television show host, Michelle Carson, during the filming of a series rendered in English as Summer Frolic at the Castle (apparently it doesn't sound as dreadful in Swedish). The isolated location means there are 12 suspects, all loosely connected with the show, and all with some motive for doing away with Michelle. To add claustrophobic spice, one is Annika's best friend, two others work for her newspaper, Kvallspressen, another used to share a desk with her; yet another is a Nazi activist from her hometown.
This is played out against a backdrop of domestic strains in Annika's relationship with her partner, brought about in large part the pressures of being for a journalist, and high level power politics played out at the newspaper.
As in her earlier books, Marklund is keen to locate the action in real places (the murder takes place at Yxtaholm Castle) and it would be quite easy to walk Annika's Stockholm - something I intend to do shortly). But I don't expect to find an 'Annika lived here' plaque in Katrinesholm:
"In her hometown no-one was impressed by her work, her career, and ambitions. They felt sory for her."
As her Aunt Martha asks:
"Writing about violence and crime, is that really a suitable job for a woman?"
Like all good fictional journalists, Annika has an ambivalent view of her job. Looking through her own paper's rather tawdry cuttings on murdered Michelle, she says: "This is insane. Why have we written so much about this girl?"
It is a theme picked up by the chairman of the Kvallspressen board:
"What about the rest of you (journalists), like this Annika Bengtzon - what kind of person is she? How can she write garbage like this?"
As so often, Annika can write it because it happens to be true; it only became garbage because it involved a member of the chairman's family. As before, Marklund puts journalistic ethics to the forefront, and although (certainly in translation) she can be rather heavy handed in the dialogue she uses to frame them, the issues she raises are compelling, not least for an English reader fascinated by the different perspectives of Swedish practice.
Here's an exchange that is worth pondering...
"You don't always put everything in the paper," Annika explained in a serious voice.
"Why not if it's the truth?"
"Well, there's personal integrity to consider."
Many an editor would claim that the decision on what to publish lay with them, and not with the personal scruples of a reporter whose job is to report.
Likewise, at one point Annika is asked to use her journalistic talents to uncover information that may not be relevant to her job.
She wasn't here as a journalist - she was a snoop, a secret agent, possibly even a traitor.
This begs the question, is there something about being a journalist that transports the individual into a different moral sphere? Are some actions that might seem ethical if carried out by a journalist unethical if carried out by the rest of us?
Certainly Annika feels the need to adopt two separate personas, one for work, one for home. Right at the beginning, her plans for an important family trip are thrown into turmoil by the newsdesk wanting her to report on Michelle's murder. Her partner is not impressed: "Are you serious? Are you really going to work?"
And then, "A fine mother you are."
There can be few journalists - male or female - who have not felt this pain. And then walked out of the door. However much you dislike some aspects of it, the job comes first.
Annika blinked, at one level stung by his words, at another, untouched. The armour that prtected her working persona had kicked into place and made her impervious.