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THE SHADOW WOMAN
by Åke Edwardson and Per Carlsson, trans.
Penguin , September 2010
338 pages
$15.00
ISBN: 0143117947


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's a sweltering August in Gothenburg, Sweden, and the city is buzzing in the midst of the raucous annual Gothenburg Party. While excitement is high due to the festivities, a series of violent events continue to trouble the local police force, led by Detective Inspector Erik Winter. Having spent his summer lounging in cut-offs, learning to appreciate hard rock (in lieu of his preferred Coltrane), and bouncing back from a transnational murder investigation (as took place in DEATH ANGELS), Winter vigilantly jumps into a new homicide case: an unidentified woman found strangled in a quiet park. Although the woman's identity remains unknown, Winter is shocked to discover that she had definitely been a mother. His murder investigation suddenly becomes a suspected kidnapping as well.

While readers familiar with the Winter series will be glad to have another of these titles available in English, however, THE SHADOW WOMAN lacks the depth of characterization and strong pacing that have made some of Edwardson's previously translated titles (such as SUN AND SHADOW) so compelling. Perhaps this can be credited to the fact that the novel is actually a rather early installment in the Winter series—it was originally published in Sweden in 1998. In this earlier articulation, Winter is more caricature than fully drawn character. His personal life—which in other books offers an intimate window into his professional skills and shortcomings—is kept very much in the background, leaving the reader to get to know Winter through strained jokes about his out-of-date musical knowledge (he refers to The Clash as a "new band") and the fact that he wears designer suits as "a form of protection against the apprehension that constantly threatened to force its way into his body."

The novel is also permeated with a palpable tension that doesn't truly pay off. As the story opens, one of Winter's police colleagues, Aneta Djanali, a woman of African descent, is subjected to racially-motivated harassment during the Gothenburg Festival and viciously attacked. Edwardson uses Djanali's attack—as well as a gang-related shoot-out in a busy city square and an immigrant man holding his son at gun point in front of the police station—to create an atmosphere of escalating violence in Gothenburg. Aside from the murder, these events feel to be mostly filler. The murder investigation labors on, and for most of the novel, everything else is treated as an afterthought. Even more frustrating is Winter's apparent omniscience throughout the case. In a moment of almost laughable coincidence, he somehow guesses the murder victim's first name before her identity is confirmed.

Ultimately a lackluster installment in the Winter series, THE SHADOW WOMAN remains thin in both character and plot development. And while Edwardson's dedicated fans may enjoy getting a glimpse of the star detective before he became Sweden's youngest-ever Chief Inspector, new readers to the series would be well advised to start elsewhere.

§ Larissa Kyzer lives in Brooklyn, New York where she is learning Danish and working towards a master's degree in Library and Information Science.

Reviewed by Larissa Kyzer, October 2010

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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