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by Inger Frimansson and Laura Wideburg, translator
Pleasure Boat Studios, May 2008
330 pages
ISBN: 1929355440

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

One of the worst things that can happen is the disappearance of a loved one. Over time, the uncertainty about their well being erodes the psyche. When someone dies, there is at least a sense of closure. Tor Assarson has been tormenting himself for over six years since his wife, Berit, vanished without a trace. Unfortunately, they had been experiencing some difficulties in their relationship. But he still can't believe that she would willingly leave and not contact him. He never gives up hope that she is still alive, although that seems an unlikely outcome. His life is one long downward spiral as a result.

Berit's best friend, Jill Kylen, has taken it upon herself to comfort Tor. They go away together on a holiday, purely as friends. After seeing Tor's pain, she decides to see if she can find any answers. The person that was last known to have seen Berit is Justine Dalvik, who went to school with Berit and Jill. The two girls were terribly cruel to Justine, but she seems to have put it behind her, justifying their actions by saying that these were the deeds of children. She cannot explain what happened to Berit. But it turns out that she is not quite as magnanimous about the past as she'd like Tor and Jill to believe.

Currently, Justine is living with a very kind man, a hotel night clerk named Hans Peter Bergman, who loves and supports her. But even he has limited patience when he sees how much darkness surrounds Justine. For some reason, many people with whom she has associated have ended up dead. At one time Justine was married to an adventurer named Nathan. During a dangerous trek to Africa, on which Justine went along, Nathan disappeared. Ever since, his son, Micke, has blamed Justine for leaving Nathan behind. And now he's out for revenge.

In one way or another, most of the characters in THE SHADOW IN THE WATER lead quite tortured lives. Justine in particular has many layers to her personality. Is it possible that she really is an instrument of death? It's very difficult to get a read on her; even Hans Peter, who supports her in every way, only sees a part of who she is. Micke is the one character who was not consistently drawn. On the one hand, he can be incredibly kind and caring, as exhibited by unselfishly taking care of an elderly couple he has befriended. On the other, he exhibits a

lot of psychotic tendencies. There is a sub-plot involving the cleaning lady at the hotel where Hans Peter works. She is married to the policeman who is investigating the Berit case, and his actions are chilling, adding even more layers of darkness to an already bleak tale.

There is an ultimate confrontation between Micke and Justine that I did not believe at all. But I do have to say that the resolution was quite satisfying, and the author didn't allow herself to wrap things up in a tidy little package. Frimansson excelled at building tension all throughout the narrative, while creating an atmosphere of uncertainty. There are many sub-plots in the book, but the author has skillfully woven them together into a cohesive whole. I'm going to try to find GOOD NIGHT MY DARLING, which is the book which introduces Justine. Finding out more about her should be fascinating.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, June 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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