I suddenly realized how terribly much I had lost in the past few years, and how close I was to losing absolutely everything.” (The Dying Game
p. 12.) An Introduction to The Dying Game, by Asa Avdic
Something terrible happened in Kyzyl Kum. Even before Anna Francis accepted the assignment, she sensed the aid mission to the war-torn area “on the border between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan . . . was an impossible task” (pp. 26–27). Two years later, Anna returns to the Protectorate of Sweden, haunted by tragedy and estranged from Siri, the nine-year-old daughter she left behind. The year is 2037, and Anna expects to serve out her days as an anonymous bureaucrat with the Union of Friendship until she is summoned for duty once again.
This time, the Chairman needs to fill a position in the RAN group, an elite and highly secretive intelligence organization. In order to select the best candidate, he asks Anna to participate in a forty-eight-hour stress test that will take place on the remote island of Isola. Anna will present herself as one of the final job candidates when, in fact, she is there to die. Shortly after their arrival, an accomplice will help stage Anna’s murder and store her “body.” From a hiding place, Anna will observe how the remaining candidates deal with the situation, assessing “who shows leadership qualities, who thinks strategically, who is diplomatic, and who doesn’t live up to expectations” (p. 10).
The test strikes Anna as overly cruel, but the Chairman insists the rigorous screening is necessary. Besides, if Anna cooperates, she will be paid a sum she could never earn, “even if I won the Union Lottery several times over” (p. 12). The Chairman also assures her that certain unpleasant aspects of her time in Kyzyl Kum will be overlooked. Although Anna can never forget what happened there, she imagines the money might help repair her fractured relationship with Siri.
Whatever reservations Anna has about her new assignment become more complicated when she arrives on Isola and meets the candidates. Most of them are prominent figures—a television personality, a high-ranking military officer, a wealthy businessman, and a respected corporate executive—but the fifth is one of Anna’s former coworkers. Why is Henry Fall on Isola? It’s no secret that he and Anna had worked together before she went to Kyzyl Kum. Is Henry—as she had once suspected—more than he seems?
With no one to ask, Anna performs her role in the Chairman’s elaborate test. But as storm clouds engulf Isola, the plan goes awry and Anna must rely on her rapidly fraying judgment to prevent a charade of murder from becoming reality. A classic locked-room mystery set against a chilling dystopian future, The Dying Game
leaves readers breathless and eager for more from the latest Swedish author to debut on American shores.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. The Chairman makes it clear that Anna Francis must either accept the assignment or risk having her actions in Kyzyl Kum investigated. Would she have accepted even without this threat? Why or why not?
2. Does Nour love Siri more than she loves Anna? If not, why does she treat them so differently?
3. Why does Henry bow out of the Kyzyl Kum project?
4. Anna feels like a failure after returning from Kyzyl Kum, yet the other guests on Isola don’t seem to view her that way. Was this the first inkling you had that Anna might be more respected than she seems to think?
5. When they first arrive on the island, the candidates all appear competent and confident in their own abilities. Was their later behavior consistent with your initial impression of them?
6. Anna and Katja note Jon’s sexist behavior in waiting for the women to set the table. Have you ever witnessed something similar?
7. Which of the candidates impressed you most? Why do you think each was chosen?
8. In Anna’s place, would you agree to be “murdered”? What might have happened if she changed her mind before Katja drugged her?
9. Were the sexual assignations between Anna and Henry and Jon and Franziska an anticipated part of the Chairman’s plan?
10. Is Henry only on Isola because of Anna’s attraction to him? How does he feel about her?
11. After Anna finds Katja’s body, whom did you first suspect of foul play?
12. While Anna Francis believes her sojourn on Isola was a complete disaster, she passes the Chairman’s test and earns a position with the RAN group. In his eyes, what did she successfully manage to do?
13. Did the Chairman deliberately set the Secretary up to take the blame? Or was he simply a convenient fall guy?
14. Is Henry really dead? If not, who benefits by pretending he is?
15. Is reestablishing a relationship with Siri worth the risks that Anna takes?
16. The paradoxically named “Union of Friendship” echoes the language of George Orwell’s 1984. What are some other instances in which Advic echoes the dystopian classic? Are there any other books that The Dying Game echoes or evokes?
About this Author
Asa Avdic is a journalist with Swedish Public Service Television and Radio. She is currently the host of Gomorron Sverige
Sweden’s most popular morning show. She lives in Stockholm with her family. The Dying Game
is her first novel.