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THE LONG SHADOW
by Liza Marklund and Neil Smith, trans
Emily Bestler/Atria Books, April 2014
520 pages
$15.00
ISBN: 1451607032


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Annika Bengstzon has been battling her bosses, struggling to balance her demanding career as a journalist and motherhood, and dealing with a troubled marriage through a series that started in 1998 with THE BOMBER. This eighth entry takes on those issues and more in story that follows closely on LIFETIME. Since it involves some of the same characters and conflicts, it may be a bit baffling to readers coming to the series for the first time. But for veterans, this entry will be a pleasure.

As the book opens, a ruthless band of criminals led by women prepare to use gas to rob a house in Spain belonging to a former sports star and his family, a method of robbery that is popular on the Costa del Sol, where many wealthy Swedes have settled. The sports star, his wife, and two small children are killed. The thieves make off with a safe and number of valuables, and Annika Bengtzon picks up the story from Stockholm, where another story is unfolding. A man imprisoned for murder in a case she previously reported is being released from prison after his conviction is overturned. Annika has a feeling that story isn't over.

When she travels to Spain to learn more about the murders, she meets a handsome undercover detective who is investigating drugs that travel through Spain on their way to Scandinavia, has to deal with a newspaper photographer who is more interested in art than in photojournalism, and copes with mixed messages from her ex-husband. As usual, she pieces together things about that nobody else has uncovered. We get a close up look at how a journalist who has both an itch to get to the bottom of things and a competitive streak does her work in a stressed and commercialized newsroom as she tries to find time for her children.

These issues have always been part of the series, but Spain seems to suit Annika, who sometimes comes across as whiney and self-centered. Here, she is self-critical, but also professional and capable and the leisurely pace of the story seems to have taken the series on a refreshing holiday. It's a long book, full of detours and rambles, and the heroine seems improved by them. The tension picks up toward the end as several threads tie together in a knot that needs to be sliced through with dramatic action. While perhaps not the best place to start the series, this is a book that series fans will enjoy, both for the way it plays variations on two previous books in the series and to see Annika come to terms with herself without losing any of her prickliness.

Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, April 2014

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