Marit Sköld is working as a substitute reporter at The Daily Mirror in Stockholm, where she is to keep in touch with the foreign correspondents of the paper. The paper has lost its position as the leading evening paper of the country; its economic situation is critical and sales are tumbling. The management is desperately searching for a way out of the situation.
Roland Hedman is a little more than fifty years old. In the old days, he was the star reporter of the paper; now, he is tired and has a drinking problem. In order to get rid of him, the management sends Hedman to southern India as a foreign correspondent.
Hedman discovers a large quantity of dead dogs on Kovalam Beach and finds out that they have died from dog plague, a formerly unknown virus disease that is also rumoured to affect humans. The barber of the Swede, Mr Veli, connects him with a doctor who owns an Ayurvedic hospital in Trivandrum. Based on the information of the Indian doctor, Roland Hedman writes that att a new influenza has had a breakout in India; it is far worse than the pandemic avian flu and swine influenza in terms of contagion and mortality. The disease is reported to have emerged from mutated genes from the earlier pandemics and dogs are the carriers. There is no cure for dog plague. Hedman finds out that more than a hundred people have died during the first few days.
The reports of Hedman, which have not been checked for accuracy, receive a great deal of attention in Scandinavia.
A failed scientist in Stockholm, Joel Neovius, who has had to leave an off-track project having cost 20 million rupees, is in desperate need of finding something new. He knows that being successful is not enough; he must also be famous in order to access the correct research grants. Therefore, he starts manipulating the blogosphere and social media, where he uses the stories of Roland Hedman from Kerala to spread the message that the Swedish government is letting its citizens down regarding the threat of dog plague. Huge numbers of people accept his views. Groups that praise Neovius gather thousands of supporters on Facebook.
Roland Hedman is invited to stay with a multi-millionaire in Fort Kochi and allows himself to be impressed by the man who is called a maharajah thanks to being of royal descent. The man claims to own a cure for dog plague. He wants the help of Hedman in order to launch it in Sweden. There are thousands of reported Indian deaths caused by dog plague.
The dog plague has claimed its first victim in Scandinavia, The Daily Mirror reports. A man from Finland, the neighbouring country, has died on an airplane on the way home from a wedding in Kerala.
Swedish authorities clash over how to handle the new disease. There has been no success in isolating the virus. Experts of disease control want to wait for a WHO initiative, while the Swedish Institution for Security, a state function for the physical and mental health of its citizens, chooses to issue a warning. People storm emergency care units on several locations in Sweden in order to find vaccine where there is none to be found.
From Fort Kochi, Roland Hedman reports that schools are closing in order to prevent the disease from spreading. In airports and on railway stations, people are wearing mouth protectors. Hedman writes stories of dogcatchers.
In northern Sweden, two dogs are shot. They are owned by a Sami who is in the process of moving his reindeer. Marit Sköld gets a hold of the story and writes in The Daily Mirror that dogs are shot in order to stop the disease from spreading.
In Fort Kochi, the Hindu-Fascist organisation RSS, Rashtriya Swayasewak Sangh, The National Volunteer Corps, is preparing an attack directed at a Christian church.
A freighter ship that is transporting bananas between Fort Kochi and Rotterdam arrives in port. The freighter ship and its captain will be of central importance to this novel.
Seven-year-old Lisa Andersson in small-town Lycksele disappears with her dog. The temperature is 30 degrees below zero (Celsius, translator’s note). She is found naked in the snow on a golf course on the following day. There are suspicions of a sexual murder, but it turns out that she has frozen to death and that she tried to save her dog from being euthanized.
Roland Hedman sexually abuses the young housemaid of the maharajah, being under the impression that the woman is part of the service offered to him as a palace guest. He is arrested by the police but released on bail after the maharajah intervenes. Hedman discovers that he is a puppet to the maharajah. He cannot leave India, as the police have his passport.
Hedman writes about the Indians having produced a cure for the dog plague. The Daily Mirror holds the story, as the management expects news of a cure to calm people down, thereby killing the story of the plague, which has more than doubled the edition.
In Fort Kochi, RSS blows up a church. There is total devastation. Hedman happens to be nearby and finds out that the congregation of the church believes that Jesus never died on the cross but disappeared to India. Hedman decides to make a story on Jesus the Bluff.
The cure of the maharajah is sent to Swedish scientist Joel Neovius for an analysis. Neovius, thanks to strong media exposure, has become Doctor Joel to all of Sweden.
Information from Finland reveals that the man who died on the plane bound for his home from Kerala died of a heart attack. He had contracted a common cold.
Neovius the scientist calls the bluff of the Indian cure, but he keeps quiet about it. His fame is more important.
The Swedish government, which has formerly been undecided on its view of the reports from India, proclaims that the dog plague is a bluff - hook, line and sinker. The Daily Mirror is forced to issue a public apology.
The police of Lycksele arrest a man who shot the two dogs. The crime was in no way connected to the alleged dog plague.
A woman who is upset calls Marit Sköld at The Daily Mirror and introduces herself as the mother of the dead seven-year-old Lisa Andersson. Marit cannot comprehend what the woman is trying to say.
Roland Hedman receives orders to return home, but he refuses. In his delirious state, he is working on Jesus the Bluff, while planning to escape together with one of the global travellers in port.
Hedman then disappears.
In order not to attract more attention, The Daily Mirror chooses not to report the disappearance of Hedman. The paper sends Marit Sköld to Kerala to search for her colleague.
Marit finds his laptop. It contains notes on everything that has happened. She tracks his activities back in time, meets with people and a picture of Roland Hedman and Swedish mass media begins to emerge. Hedman is both evil and ruthless. His paper exists for the sole purpose of generating profits. Democracy and freedom of the press are just catch phrases.
Marit’s investigations lead her to the production of the bluff medication and she realises that Roland Hedman has made up most of his writing.
The body of Hedman is found in the water at Fort Kochi. It has been caught in one of the world-famous Chinese fishing nets. The body is heavily battered. The Swede has been beaten to death.
By adding the notes of Hedman together with the story of dead girl Lisa about her father who is a pirate king of the Southern seas, Marit Sköld solves the crime. The biological father of Lisa is the captain of the fridge freighter ship that regularly sails the distance Fort Kochi - Rotterdam.
Hedman has been on to this relationship and tried to get an interview with the man: "Father of Little Lisa - A Daily Mirror Exclusive.” The two have met on the bridge of the ship; Lisa’s father has been enraged and by mistake pushed a drunk Hedman overboard. The body has been caught between the hull of the ship and the pier before the currents have taken it.
Marit, who feels she is partially to blame for the death of little Lisa, makes a deal with the captain. She promises to keep the information she has found quiet if the captain commits himself to turn himself in to the police in Sweden, which he does.
With my third novel, I want to show just who has everything to gain from reports of deadly viruses. I also want to focus on the lack of responsibility in Swedish mass media, which is evident time and time again. It is also important to me to speak of the shady businesses that have affected the commonplace view of the Indian Ayurvedic health philosophy, which has been around for several thousand years.