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by Ake Edwardson
Harvill Press, June 2005
448 pages
ISBN: 1843432005

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Erik Winter is the youngest chief inspector in the Swedish police. He's a snappy dresser and seems to be the archetypal new man who can rustle up a recipe in minutes. And he's about to become a father for the first time.

But you can guarantee that's it's not going to be plain sailing for him. A couple are murdered in a Gothenburg flat and left in a particularly gruesome pose, with death metal music thundering out as a backdrop.

SUN AND SHADOW is a most appropriate title. We move from the bright sun of Costa del Sol where Winter's parents have moved to, to the dark and cold of Sweden. There's a mix of drab street scenes and brightly-lit interiors, and the book delves into the black side of human behaviour. Having read a fair amount of European crime fiction, I am beginning to wonder if Swedish writers ever write cosies or humorous novels!

But SUN AND SHADOW is too long by at least 100 pages and in need of a fairly drastic edit. For someone who's apparently written books on creative writing, Edwardson seems to have a worryingly casual attitude to point of view. Not only does the plot drift, so also does who's telling the story -- and it often happens within one paragraph.

OK, that's the moan. Despite that, this is a book worth reading. It's set mainly in Gothenburg, Sweden, over a bitterly cold winter with the Millennium approaching. There's a very edgy feel to it, not just because of the impending new century. And Edwardson cranks up the tension with the spooky phonecalls that Erik and girlfriend Angela receive.

If you don't like crime fiction which focusses on the protagonist's private life, you'd probably best steer clear of this one. At times the murder enquiry seems very much on the back burner. Winter, approaching 40, has a reputation to live up to in the police force. And he's preoccupied not only with his father's ill-health, but also with the birth of his first child. Angela has just moved into his flat, and they are slowly getting used to living with each other.

So, SUN AND SHADOW is something of a mixed bag. Edwardson can write, but the book needed a firmer hand throughout. And I have a sneaking suspicion that Laurie Thompson's translation didn't help -- it feels rather plodding. But despite a slightly anti-climatic ending I'd want to persevere with Edwardson for the time being.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, March 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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