ANNIKA Bengtzon is the recently promoted head of the crime team at Stockholm's Evening Post newspaper, and she's looking forward to celebrating Christmas with her family in a week's time. It's a chance to escape the daily deadlines, the lack of support from her male colleagues, and the chores that come with being a wife and mother. But an explosion at the city's Victoria Stadium, home to the following year's Olympic Games, puts paid to any festivities Bengtzon was planning; even more so when a body is discovered in the rubble.

The remains are those of Christina Furhage, head of the Olympic organising committee, and immediate thoughts are that this is an act of terrorism. But, having interviewed a number of people after the event, Bengtzon is not convinced.

Neither is her police source - one of the more likeable characters in Liza Marklund's The Bomber, despite being neither named nor described at length - who suspects the attack is personal.

Trying to find a motive, though, proves difficult: Furhage, it seems, is loved by everyone from her somewhat bewildered husband to her business colleagues and even the construction workers at the stadium. Bengtzon can't find a single person with a bad word to say about her and the mystery deepens. She does, however, uncover a few secrets from Furhage's past.

Two days later, a second bomb explodes at another Olympic venue, this time claiming a victim who seems to have no connection to Furhage.

Bengtzon and her team are pushed to pursue the story - Bengtzon, on occasion, with pangs of guilt that the long hours she's putting in are at the expense of her family life.

Then, as she gets closer to uncovering the identity of "the Bomber", as he's been nicknamed, Bengtzon unwittingly becomes his next target.

While the storyline is gripping enough to keep you turning the pages, the book's strength lies in Marklund's ability to deliver a sense of place, and the atmospheric setting is evocative of an icy Nordic winter made warmer by the festive-season celebrations.

Marklund is a journalist, as well as the co-owner of Sweden's third-largest publishing house. Her idea to base the storyline on the investigation of a murder seen from a reporter's point of view is refreshing, encompassing not only how Bengtzon captures the private life of Furhage, which is hidden behind a rather public facade, but also a detailed insight into the workings of a daily paper and its politics, as well as the age-old - but still relevant - chestnut of a woman trying to make it in a predominantly man's world.

In this case, Bengtzon has to prove herself against a number of ageing, sexist hacks who are miffed they were beaten to the senior post by a woman. Fortunately, her passion and determination stand her in good stead.

TITLE: The Bomber

AUTHOR: Liza Marklund

PUBLISHER: Bantam Press