1 July 2009

Review: SHADOW, Karin Alvtegen

TEXT Publishing, Melbourne, 2009, written in Swedish 2007, translated into English by McKinley Burnett 2009, ISBN 978-1-921351-97-6, 311 pages

Gerda Persson had lain dead for three days by the time the home help discovered her body. Her decision that at her death she would reveal to the person who most needed to know a secret she had been burdened with for 35 years sets in train a sequence of events that destroys lives.

Thirty five years before a little boy had been left on the steps of the Skansen amusement park, apparently abandoned by his mother. For 35 years he has searched for his identity, and now he will find out.

The structure of this book is like the orchestral composition where one by one the players are introduced, each playing a slightly different theme, in their own world. And then the players come together, the composition gathers tempo, rising to a heart stopping crescendo. I saw none of the resolutions of the various themes in SHADOW coming, and they left me nearly breathless.
And then the final 3 pages, for me reminscent of that final line from T.S. Eliot's The Hollow Men, .."not with a bang, but with a whimper".

I'm staggered by the power of this book.
My rating: 4.9

Other reviews to check
Crime Scraps
Uriah Robinson says "The book succeeds on many levels but especially as a lesson that once you take that first shaky step away from the straight and narrow you have no idea where it may lead."
Euro Crime
Petrona says "As the novel reaches its climax, I was on the edge of my seat, my heart was pounding, and by the end I felt wrecked."

  • Winner, Danish Academy of Crime Writers Award for Best Crime Novel
  • Shortlisted, Swedish Academy of CrimeWriters Award for Best Swedish Crime Novel
  • shortlisted, UK Crimewriters Association International Dagger
The latter shortlisting was the reason I've read it.

Previous novels

I've read, in pre-blogging days, two Alvtegen titles.

BETRAYAL, my rating 4.7
A psychological thriller where 2 stories converge: Eva discovers her husband is having an affair with her son's day-care teacher. She meets Jonas, a damaged young man keeping vigil in hospital over his girlfriend Anna who has been in a coma for nearly two and a half years. The stories run in parallel for most of the book, the tension mounting all the time, and then converge in a most unforesee-able way, with a chilling ending. Nominated for the Best Nordic Crime Novel in 2004.

MISSING, my rating 5.0
For the last fifteen years, Sybilla Forsenstrom has been living as the ultimate outsider. In breaking away from an oppressive girlhood, where her mother quashed thoughts and actions in the most passive-aggressive way possible, Sybilla has found a way to survive by drifting on the streets of Stockholm. Although she gets a monthly stipend--sent to a post office box--she hordes the money, never spending it. What money she does get is obtained by the occasional scam or two. The one that's worked the best of late for Sybilla is to waltz into a hotel restaurant, charm a well-to-do gentleman into buying her dinner and perhaps a night's stay in a hotel room.
When she meets Jorgen Grundberg at the Grand Hotel, the scam goes according to plan. But the next morning, Sybilla awakes to a horrifying nightmare. Grundberg is the victim of a ritual murder, and all the signs and physical evidence points to Sybilla as the killer. But she has no recollection of what happened.
This is the first of Alvtegen's novels to be translated into English.

There is another, SHAME, that I have not yet read.

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