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Rachel-K
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Three Seconds: Part Three

Hi all,
Please feel free to use any of the following questions to discuss Part Three of Three Seconds, and please also feel free to post your own thoughts and questions for the group!
 
In what ways were Piet Hoffmann's plans for entering prison working out exactly as he'd organized them?
 
What was life in prison like and how did Piet fit in there?
 
What interferes with his carefully orchestrated plans?
 
How would you judge Piet as a man in these chapters if you'd had no picture of his life outside the prison walls before this?
 
We spend quite a lot of time in these chapters observing Ewert Grens. How does he compare to the other officers he works with and for?
 
Why do you think Grens detects something wrong about the stories he's being given by police and prison officials?
 
Why does Grens attempt to go the cemetery twice in these chapters? Can you describe his struggle?
 
 
 
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thewanderingjew
Posts: 2,247
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

I am not far enough into Part 3 yet to answer all of the questions but this story is making me want to shake a fist at all the people involved in Piet's life. They are using him and yes, he knows they are using him, but, the ease with which they betray him is horrifying to me. They are so concerned for their own skins that they never consider his. They just decide to sacrifice him.

What disturbes me most is that they don't realize that they are just as guilty, perhaps guiltier than he is because they see him as a criminal but they do not see themselves that way and they are just as much a criminal as he is for what they have done.

They use him to accomplish their job and then when something goes awry, they don't try and save him, they save themselves. What makes them better than him?. He is making a sacrifice to help them, they are sacrificing him! Oh, I am so angry. I am even angrier when I think that these kinds of behaviors often go undiscovered if not for these kinds of authors who expose them.

Okay, I have to reduce my blood pressure and read on.

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MBSpencer
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

I think Ewert Grens went into law enforcement for all the right reasons.  He wanted to do a good job and make a difference in the world.  He has the instincts a great cop should have.  He follows his gut.

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thewanderingjew
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

Everything went according to Piet's plan, at first, and I was amazed when I realized how well thought out it was. He arranged his job, he sent the tulips with the amphetamines hidden inside and he managed to do all that he had to do, to set his plans in motion. He even made the first drug transactions. I was shocked at some of the inferences to the crimes he had committed, because he thought about them, seemingly, without any remorse. The ends simply justified the means. I was also surprised at how well he assumed the character of "Paula" which consumed him, but I admired his ability and his courage. He never wavered. The plan to expose the drug dealers and stop them, was working well.
Grens, unwittingly, cut "Piet's" efforts short and exposed his life to incredible danger. I have not read on to know what happened, yet, but I can't help but wonder why wouldn't those in the know have told Ewert Grens the plan, once he began to sniff too closely and made them nervous about his investigation? Surely they could have stopped him. So much was at stake.
Those involved in manipulating Piet's life seemed so unprepared and so unprofessional. It would seem that the "criminal" mind managed to think things out a lot more clearly than the officials who were behaving like criminals, who never gave a thought to any consequences but those that involved their own skins.
I am glad Piet had "Plan B" and I am actually rooting for him to use it, even though he has committed crimes, himself, to expose the actual criminals. Both Piet and the authorities consider others involved as extraneous sacrifices to the cause, regardless of the consequences to them. They are both the same and yet so very different. One is on the side of  the law and one is walking the balance beam in both worlds, the criminal and the legal. Right now, I am siding with Piet. I think Oscarsson and Goransson, quite honestly, make me nauseous. They are cowards and Piet, whatever he is, is most definitely not a coward.

This book is good. It is enraging me. The system keeps the system alive at any expense! The thing is, the book makes me feel certain that this is going on in justice systems all over the world, even as we read. Are we all so expendable? Who decides which is the higher cause? Yikes, I am not a happy camper.

 


Rachel-K wrote:
Hi all,
Please feel free to use any of the following questions to discuss Part Three of Three Seconds, and please also feel free to post your own thoughts and questions for the group!
 
In what ways were Piet Hoffmann's plans for entering prison working out exactly as he'd organized them?
 
What was life in prison like and how did Piet fit in there?
 
What interferes with his carefully orchestrated plans?.....edited out, twj....

 

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literature
Posts: 499
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

I just have to let off some steam.  Part III was W-O-W.  .

 

I am completely disillusioned with Wilson, have lost all respect for him.  WHERE IS HE?  He talks about how much Piet means to him, he's become a friend.  He's envious of him.  A loving wife and two beautiful children.  Zofia must know the truth before he enters the prison.  Wilson goes to all lengths to make sure that everything is in order before he is arrested.  Makes sure that Piet knows about all the prisoners in his block.  Even the names of the two men from the Polish Wojtek office.  Everything is set up in advance.  Wilson gets him a "reward" job, unheard of as a newcomer, a job as cleaner in Block B cleaning the bathrooms and the warden's room.  A guarantee that we will look after you when the work is done.  I know that you will then have a death threat on you, branded throughout the criminal world.  We will give you a new life, a new identity, and money to start over again abroad.  I guarantee you this in my capacity as a state secretary of the Ministry of Justice.  Notice that the guarantee from the state secretary was for "when the work was done".  Only Wilson promised he get him out a week after he got the phone call from him that he went into solitary confinement.

Piet knew that Block B was a closed system with no escape.  If I'm exposed.  If I'm burned.  If I'm alone.  "He would no longer have any choice.  He would die."  Piet was so clever in all his preparations.  Everything was so mathematically figured out and strategically positioned.  He knew where to position Jacobson so he would be safe.  He knew the three second countdown.  He was in control with the sniper and Gren teasing them with the first two attempts that I can't believe he didn't know how far he could go within that third second.  He was still standing by the window at two seconds.  Could he reach the area where Jacobson was in a split second?  He was too clever.  He had to figure something out.  His main goal has always been to survive.  He loved Zofia so much and the boys.  Was he will to give up a life with them.  I don't buy that.  If he figured out where to position Jacobson, cover him with the rug and the curtain, then he had to have planned out some scheme for himself.   If he did survive and run, he certainly wouldn't want Jacobson to know about it.  Never trust anyone.

Wilson was going back to FLETC and southern Georgia to finish what he had been forced to interrupt a couple of days ago.  With all the advanced preparations that were put into place ahead of time, why wasn't a better contact system set up.  Another telephone number for Piet to call that went directly to a newly set up Wilson telephone, an untraceable telephone and new number.  Wilson already had five telephones set up for different contacts, Piet's would not be used, so this new one could have replaced Piet's.  I think Wilson is working both sides, the good policeman working with infiltrators to bust the Polish drug mafia, and Wilson, the drug mafia himself, perhaps obliterating the Polish mafia in his way.    

 

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thewanderingjew
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

I have not finished yet, does your comment mean that Wilson never gets him out of isolation as planned? I stopped reading at WHERE IS HE because I don't want to read about what I don't know yet.

I will be madder than you know what if that is true...onward to the book, now I go!

I think you and I are on the same page in our feelings about what appears to be happening to Piet.

 


literature wrote:
I just have to let off some steam.  Part III was W-O-W.  .

 

I am completely disillusioned with Wilson, have lost all respect for him.  WHERE IS HE? 

 

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Peppermill
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

Some of the CYA here is not totally unlike the way corporations, and the individuals within them, sometimes operate during employee cutbacks, although usually with less direct danger to life itself.

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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nfam
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

The authors said in response to a question that they were trying to show the various aspects of good and evil:how a criminal can be good and how the law enforcement officers can be evil. I thought the ending was an excellent illustration of this point. Piet had done bad things, but he was an intrinsically good person. I thought this was illustrated by his care for the prison warden he held hostage. On the other hand, the law enforcement hierarchy had no qualms about burning their own man, if it kept them from looking bad. I felt these people had become so hardened to the sufferings of others that they didn't think about them as real people. There was no discussion of how Piet's death would affect his family. He was simply a tool. 

 

Erik Wilson was different. He was afraid of what would happen to himself, but he also cared about Piet as a person. I was glad he tried to dissuade him from taking on the assignment. I also liked the ending. Piet was right to call him and reassure him. They really cared about each other on some level.

 

I thought the ending was excellent. I just hope there are as many law enforcement people as criminals reading about all the clever ruses Piet used to smuggle in drugs. He was quite a brilliant strategist.

 

Very good book. I much enjoyed it.   

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dhaupt
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

OMG if part four gets any more exciting than part three I'll have to take frequent breaks to calm my pulse and blood pressure. I have been biting my nails and sweating right along with Piet. I don't know how he kept his sanity through all of this. And I did have an ah-hah moment when I realized why he made those preparations on the tower of the church.

 

Now on to the questions

 

In what ways were Piet Hoffmann's plans for entering prison working out exactly as he'd organized them?

I think his plans for getting into prison worked like clock work. Getting out, not so much.

 

What was life in prison like and how did Piet fit in there?

I think when he first went in he did a great job of becoming the "big dog" and until he was outed was making great progress.

 

How would you judge Piet as a man in these chapters if you'd had no picture of his life outside the prison walls before this?

If I didn't know that Piet was working for the police my opinion of him would change very little except I would think that his conniving and uber-planning were for his own goals.

 

We spend quite a lot of time in these chapters observing Ewert Grens. How does he compare to the other officers he works with and for?

I think even though we've seen him bumbling around and acting slightly delusional that in this part he is proving to me anyway just how great a contribution to the force he is and was. I think the people who work for him respect him and the people that put him in charge of the prison hostage situation do to. And for a good reason he is feared by the deviants who are pulling all the puppet strings behind the scene on this operation, the supposed "good guys", yeah right.

 

Why does Grens attempt to go the cemetery twice in these chapters? Can you describe his struggle?

This part of his life is still a mystery to me and I guess until I find out a little more why he thinks he's responsible for the death I won't know. Also I'm assuming we're talking about his wife but I don't remember if that was pointed out or if I just made it up in my head.

 

I am really enjoying the fast pace that has started in this section.

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dhaupt
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

[ Edited ]

 


literature wrote:
I just have to let off some steam.  Part III was W-O-W.  .

 

I am completely disillusioned with Wilson, have lost all respect for him.  WHERE IS HE?  He talks about how much Piet means to him, he's become a friend. 

 

Hi literature, I remember in part two when Erik and Piet were putting the final touches on the prison sentence that Wilson stated that it would be some days before he would know if anything went wrong because he would be back at Quantico.

And I remember in part three while Piet was in prison that he recounted this.

 

I reserving my opinion of Erik until I find out more in part four, because I'm still giving him the benefit of the doubt.

 

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jb11
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

Why do you think Grens detects something wrong about the stories he's being given by police and prison officials?
Grens has the experience to know when something doesn't add up.  I think Grens and Piet are very similar in character.  Both have enough training, instinct, and experience, and both are motivated by guilt.   Aside from Wilson, they are the only ones who seem to differentiate between 'right' and 'wrong'.  Despite the fact that this novel tries to blur the lines between what is right and what is wrong, the authors rely on the readers' sense of morality for the story to work.  As a reader, I am looking for good guys and bad guys. I have never assumed that the police are automatically the good guys.  That works in theory, but not always in practice as history has demonstrated.
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Peppermill
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

[ Edited ]

 


jb11 wrote:
Why do you think Grens detects something wrong about the stories he's being given by police and prison officials?
Grens has the experience to know when something doesn't add up.  I think Grens and Piet are very similar in character.  Both have enough training, instinct, and experience, and both are motivated by guilt.   Aside from Wilson, they are the only ones who seem to differentiate between 'right' and 'wrong'.  Despite the fact that this novel tries to blur the lines between what is right and what is wrong, the authors rely on the readers' sense of morality for the story to work.  As a reader, I am looking for good guys and bad guys. I have never assumed that the police are automatically the good guys.  That works in theory, but not always in practice as history has demonstrated.

 

Bold added.

 

Do they "blur" or do they force us to ask the questions about what happens when both good and bad are present simultaneously, although not necessarily in exactly the same domains?

 

And they do present situations in which "right intentions" can lead to very bad outcomes.

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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high96
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

 


Rachel-K wrote:
Why do you think Grens detects something wrong about the stories he's being given by police and prison officials?
He detects something is wrong because the criminal record that Wilson has so carefully built for Piet, has a discrepancy-- a hardened, violent criminal would never be allowed to have a permit or license for all the guns that Piet has permits for. He also feels that Oscarsson was giving him the run-around when he said that Piet was "sick". 
 
Why does Grens attempt to go the cemetery twice in these chapters? Can you describe his struggle?
 
 Grens is attempting to visit his wife's grave. He is trying to come to terms with her death. He is frightened of death and the finality of it which would be experienced by visiting her grave. 
 

 

"I don't like secrets! All this cooking, and reading, and TV watching, while we... read and cook! It's like you're involving me in crime, and I let you! Why do I let you?" --Emile in "Ratatouille"
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elaine_hf
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

 


literature wrote:
I just have to let off some steam.  Part III was W-O-W.  .

 

I am completely disillusioned with Wilson, have lost all respect for him.  WHERE IS HE?  ...

 


I SO agree with your entire post! The thought running through my mind the whole time while reading part 3 was, where the heck is Erik? When you look at the days, we're only talking about less than a week - one might think that, because Erik has said that he's grown rather fond of Piet/Paula, that he would stick around for a while and make sure that things were going smoothly. He is showing himself to be a bit of a fair weather friend, and while he may be on Piet's side, his unreliability makes him untrustworthy. He has vanished, perhaps because he's assumed everything is going as planned. If there's anything I've learned (and keep learning) in life, it's to not make any assumptions about anything! 

 

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DSaff
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Fear

The first and most powerful thing that hit me in this section was fear. Everything started out fine. Piet had planned everything to the letter and it seemed to be going along perfectly, when suddenly it all changed and his safety and life were in danger. Fear became the biggest predator in the room. The tough guy went right out the window and for probably the first time in his life, Piet realized he has something to live for - his family. His fear was compounded by the fact that he couldn't reach anyone to help him (That was poor planning on the part of his cohorts!) and that the other prisoners get themselves put into solitary as well. He was alone and unprotected. Fear is a very powerful emotion and we can see here how it is able to take complete control of anyone.

 

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OKC_NookJA
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

In what ways were Piet Hoffmann's plans for entering prison working out exactly as he'd organized them?

His plan for entering prison worked out like he organized it to begin with.

His plans were very elaborate and I don't think they would mirror reality or what could be possible. No one could predict what would happen with that degree of accuracy.
 
What was life in prison like and how did Piet fit in there?

He had instructed the police commissioner and state secretary to get him a job cleaning the area where he would need to pick up his drugs from the tulips and also for his escape plan centered around the workshop.

It all started out well for his plan. He planted the drugs in his competitions cells so then he controlled the drug market in the prison.

He didn't fit in when he was burned.
 
What interferes with his carefully orchestrated plans?

Grens investigaion leads the police to burn him. Luckily he made plans in case they did that.
 
How would you judge Piet as a man in these chapters if you'd had no picture of his life outside the prison walls before this?

A hardened criminal with a violent history and tendencies.
 
We spend quite a lot of time in these chapters observing Ewert Grens. How does he compare to the other officers he works with and for?

Grens likes to keep distant from other officers. He is determined to solve his cases and "doesn't give up".

He is a saint compared to Erik Wilson and his supervisor Gronnason. Grens would never recruit a criminal to infiltrate crime organizations and he certainly wouldn't "burn" them. He wouldn't cover up infiltrators crimes.

Sven Sundkvist and Marianna Hermansson - Sven's character is developed a little more later in the book. Marianna is not developed enough to comment on her.
 
Why do you think Grens detects something wrong about the stories he's being given by police and prison officials?

Hoffman had guns and a criminal that had his record wouldn't be allowed to have a gun permit.

When Grens gets to the prison to interview Hoffman, he is told that he is sick and can't be visited for three or four days by Oscarsson the prison warden(at the police insistence). When Hoffman takes the hostages, this gives Grens and his team the information to question the warden.
 
Why does Grens attempt to go the cemetery twice in these chapters? Can you describe his struggle?

He wants to see his wife's grave site. He is distraught over her death. It's not until Part Four that we find out the reason. I think his stuggle is from both the despair of missing his wife and intense guilt.

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Annalisa13
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

I could not read just to the end of part three!  This book just starts moving so fast I finished it this past weekend but had to take breaks getting to the end because of the suspense and all that was happening, I thought I might explode!  Excellent Book for sure!!!!!

 

I think Ewert is a law abiding police man.  That's why he's so frustrated because he knows something is not right with the case and works hard to uncover it.  The higher ups and his co-workers seem in a hurry to close down this case so he can't get any further and by keeping him from interviewing Piet in the prison.  It just doesn't add up!

I think he goes to the cemetary a few times because he may think if he goes and sees where she is burried, he will have to come to terms and admit that she is no longer physically there.  And that is a hard thing to have to do.

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Peppermill
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

 


elaine_hf wrote (excerpt):

 

If there's anything I've learned (and keep learning) in life, it's to not make any assumptions about anything! 

 


Well, maybe to always assume that any given assumption may go awry?

 

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Peppermill
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

[ Edited ]

 


OKC_NookJA wrote:

In what ways were Piet Hoffmann's plans for entering prison working out exactly as he'd organized them?

His plan for entering prison worked out like he organized it to begin with.

His plans were very elaborate and I don't think they would mirror reality or what could be possible. No one could predict what would happen with that degree of accuracy.


 


I quite agree that this is one (of several) places that
Three Seconds seemed more like a "story" than like a journalistic account of real life.  That did not decrease its emotional nor intellectual impact, however.


 


OKC_NookJA wrote:
We spend quite a lot of time in these chapters observing Ewert Grens. How does he compare to the other officers he works with and for?

Grens likes to keep distant from other officers. He is determined to solve his cases and "doesn't give up".

He is a saint compared to Erik Wilson and his supervisor Gronnason. Grens would never recruit a criminal to infiltrate crime organizations and he certainly wouldn't "burn" them. He wouldn't cover up infiltrators crimes.

 


Which is probably part of why Grens is never assigned to become a "handler" nor is sent for special training.  This is part of where I wonder what kind of statement B&H are making about the U.S. role in crime solving and terror control going forward.  They do make it clear their literary intent includes social criticism.  How much voice can ordinary citizens have about such tactics?

 

What assessment of bad guy versus good guy do you think the authors want the readers to have of Erik Wilson?

 

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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thecatsmeowAM
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Re: Three Seconds: Part Three

In what ways were Piet Hoffmann's plans for entering prison working out exactly as he'd organized them?
--It seems everything went as planned.  Hiding the gun in the books, having the tulipis delivered, knocking out the competition. 
 
What was life in prison like and how did Piet fit in there?
--It surprised me that there were times where the guards weren't attentive and he knew his life could be in danger during those times.  He seems to know the prison system extremely well and uses that to his advantage.
 
What interferes with his carefully orchestrated plans?
--The police "burning" him.  I hated this!
 
How would you judge Piet as a man in these chapters if you'd had no picture of his life outside the prison walls before this?
 
--I would assume he was a dangerous drug criminal, especially with how he punches the warden, takes hostages etc.
We spend quite a lot of time in these chapters observing Ewert Grens. How does he compare to the other officers he works with and for?
 
--He seems more honest and involved in his work.  He seems to play by the rules and does his job by the letter.
Why do you think Grens detects something wrong about the stories he's being given by police and prison officials?
--I think he was tipped off when he found out Piet was issued a gun.  I think this started the ball rolling for him to be suspicious.
 
Why does Grens attempt to go the cemetery twice in these chapters? Can you describe his struggle?
--I think he would have used any excuse not to go to the cemetary and these excuses just happened to be good ones.  I think he is struggling with letting go of the past and he knows that by visiting the cemetary it will mean closure to the past.
I couldn't put the book down after this section and finished it.  I really, really enjoyed this First Look selection and will definitely read more from these authors!