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by Åke Edwardson and Rachel Willson-Broyles, trans
Simon & Schuster, March 2012
402 pages
ISBN: 1451608500

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In this sixth entry in the Swedish procedural series, Chief Inspector Erik Winter is, as always, approaching a mystery with unhurried philosophical and intuitive methods. A woman from his past is worried about her father who has gone to Scotland in search of her grandfather, as being a missing person is something of a family tradition. Though there is no sign of foul play, Winter eventually agrees to look into it, while looking up an old friend who works at Scotland Yard. The reader, however, knows there's something to investigate, thanks to the opening pages in which we encounter a troubled man carrying a weapon and a burden of guilt, awaiting what he seems to feel is his imminent end.

While Winter considers turning his not-exactly-official investigation into a family holiday, detective Aneta Djanali is disturbed by reports from neighbors that a woman has been abused by her husband. The woman herself has not made a complaint, and when Djanali looks into it, she's nowhere to be found. Her family claims she's fine, that she's separated from her abusive spouse and is safe. Yet there's something peculiar going on, and Djanali knows the woman's family is not playing straight.

These two not-quite official investigations, worked out in parallel, are a good fit for Edwardson's style, which is allusive and impressionistic. Winter himself has mellowed, in love with his wife and young daughter, thinking about building a house by the sea. Djanali is an absorbing character, a Swede of African descent, born in the north but still connected through her parents to their homeland, Burkino Faso. She's not always sure of where she belongs - but is certain there's something about the abused woman that needs investigating. As she pursues her investigation in Sweden, Erik Winter tries to uncover a Swedish family's secrets in Scotland.

Edwardson is more interested in his characters' perceptions and their inner lives than in wielding the usual tools of a mystery writer's trade: suspense, fast pacing, and tight plotting. Characters slide from an observation to a pensive meditation to a moment of insight in ways that might frustrate some readers, hoping for more action and standard, character development. But for those willing to slow down and enjoy Edwardson's moody chords and moments of improvisation, this unusual and well-translated mystery will be worth savoring.

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

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, March 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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