33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Sun and Shadow, Ake Edwardson
, 27 Jun. 2005
This review is from: Sun And Shadow (Paperback)
A couple entertain a stranger in their Gothenburg flat. His insistence on playing death metal music, however, is not quite the kind of entertainment they had in mind. Days later, when the newspaper boy becomes suspicious at the music that's been playing loudly behind the door every morning, they are found dead, scene staged in a chilling symbolic horror.
Chief Inspector Erik Winter, jazz fan and fond cook, is the youngest policeman of his rank in Sweden. Personally, his life is on uncertain ground: His wife is pregnant with their first child, and his father has just had a severe heart-attack. Winter jets out for a short trip to Marbella, where his parents now live, to see his father and take care of his mother. When he returns, Winter finds this gruesome case waiting for him, ready to lead him into the murky, paranoid world of Gothenburg's death metal culture.
Actually, though this is billed as an "Erik Winter" novel, it's actually rather similar to McBain's 87th Precinct series in that we get a picture of several different policemen. Winter is certainly the main focus, but Edwardson shows that the team behind him is clearly important as well. The conveyed sense of teamwork, group effort, being the most auspicious tactic behind the solution of crimes, is something Edwardson shares with that other great Swedish crime novelist, Henning Mankell. Obviously, the comparison is so obvious that it begs to be made.
Similar is the tendency toward macabre crimes, similar is the plodding yet absolutely compelling portrait of police-work, similar are the small but inspired portraits of eccentric periphery characters, similar is the atmosphere, and similar is the fascination of their protagonists (though Winter and Wallander are cut from entirely different cloth). Indeed, so dissimilar are they - Wallander rather dour, Winter more youthful - that people who dislike Wallander's almost damp and oppressive tendencies may find this new series a lot more to their liking. Certainly, though the actual Swedish atmosphere - rather wet, a bit bleak - is rendered similarly by both writers, Edwardson's novels are [a bit!] more cheerful, less bleak and moribund than Mankell's, largely because their central character is lighter, which many people I suspect will be glad for. If you've tried Mankell and found him a little depressing, not quite got what everyone raves about, then you'd be well advised to try out this instead. (Sun and Shadow is sun and shadow compared to Mankell's shadow and shadow.) Successful series of impressive longevity are often founded on the strength of their protagonists. From the evidence here, Winter could possibly be as successful as Wallander.
It's a relatively lengthy book, but passes quite swiftly. The writing is excellent and the plot moves very well. There are several very pleasing side-strands to the book - the teenagers Maria and Patrik, who wonder the Gothenburg streets at all hours to get away from home, are superb and touching characters - and the impression is of a well-rounded crime-novel, not just a sucessful puzzle.
Given that we follow, to some degree, the lives and professional exploits of three or four members of the police-force we've not met before in the series (this is, after all, the first of Edwardson's novels to be translated, and comes somewhere in the middle of Winter's fictional exploits), can tend to make it feel a little bitty, given that we're presented with several characters whose contexts we are not at all familiar with. But that's hardly the fault of the novel. As more follow - and they surely will - that problem will go away, but I do wish publishers would stop translating foreign series out of chronological order. It would be somewhat understandable if this were the best of Edwardson's novels - hook the audience fast and hard - but I don't think it is (some aspects of the crime and the solution are a little sketchy). He has, after all, won the Swedish crime writers' award three times, so there should be plenty of good stuff still to come. I enjoyed this book immensely, my first taste of another wonderfully refreshing crime series from Europe, and I am heartily glad there are more to come.
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