13 February 2011

Review: FROZEN TRACKS, Ake Edwardson

Published at Vintage 2008
originally published in Swedish 2007
#3 in the Erik Winter series
English translation by Laurie Thompson
ISBN 978-0-099-47207-0
538 pages
Source: I bought it.

Publisher's blurb
The autumn gloom comes quickly on the Swedish city of Gothenburg, and for Detective Inspector Erik Winter the days seem even shorter, the nights bleaker, when he is faced with two seemingly unrelated sets of perplexing crimes. The investigation of a series of assaults and a string of child abductions take Winter to "the flats," the barren prairies of rural Sweden whose wastelands conceal crimes as sinister as the land itself. Winter must deduce the labyrinthine connections between the cases before it is too late and his own family comes into danger.

My take:
    They never worked on one isolated case at a time. That might have been the situation in the best of all worlds, but that wasn't where they were living. In the best of all worlds they wouldn't have existed at all as a profession. In the best of all worlds there was no such thing as CID detectives, no uniformed police officers. Law and order took care of itself. Everybody lived in a land of milk and honey.
In FROZEN TRACKS Edwardson brings together two seemingly separate threads: assaults on young male university students, and child abductions. The Gothenburg CID knows about the first because a couple of the students sustain life threatening injuries and end up in hospital. Knowledge about the child abductions accumulates only slowly, pointing up a hole in Sweden's decentralised policing system. Parents report severally to their local police station stories their 4 year olds are relating about being taken for a ride in a car, a "mister" who has offered them sweeties. But no-one connects the dots until it is nearly too late, and the stories remain just that, local reports that are never passed on to a central office.

Christmas is approaching, and the various members of DCI Erik Winter's team have their own personal problems, one recovering from recent bereavement, one a wife leaves home unexpectedly, and Winter's own family wants to visit his mother on Costa del Sol. As Christmas gets closer the pressure rises, and in neither investigation are there any reliable witnesses, although the reader sees some of the abduction thread through the eyes of the abductor.
    'This is the country we have built, the new Jerusalem,' said Winter.
Like his more famous country man, Henning Mankell, for whom this is often a theme, Ake Edwardson asks how life in Sweden has come to this.

I'm not sure however that I found the final tying off of the threads particularly credible.
It also seemed to me that Edwardson used the idea that police investigators are routinely, because of economic pressures, required to deal with more than one case at once, as a justification for writing a complex novel in which the same team was required to handle two "serial" threads. I suspect also that it provided for him, as the author, a technically difficult writing challenge - or am I just being a little too cynical?

My rating: 4.4

I'll be counting FROZEN TRACKS as a title in the Nordic Challenge 2011 and also for the letter F in Crime Fiction Alphabet.

Another review to check: Fiona Walker on EuroCrime


Maxine Clarke said...

I enjoyed this novel, too, though I read it rather too long ago to remember too much about it. I think I preferred the Erik plot to the farm plot. This is yet another series that is/has been translated out of order, annoyingly.

Bernadette said...

I remember thinking the ending a bit convoluted but I didn't mind the two cases - I suspect that is reality in most jurisdictions these days, especially as one of these was not really a proper case for some time - but I would liken this to Wingfield's Frost books or other similar procedurals where there are always several cases on the go

Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Thanks for this review. It's an interesting question about how many cases should be going on in a book at the same time. There are several authors who do that well, but when it's not done smoothly, it certainly can be annoying.

Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

Thanks for you fine review Kerrie.

Bev Hankins said...

Swedish/Nordic mysteries have really taken off lately, haven't they? I haven't read many--just recently got introduced to Henning Mankell--but I do keep adding titles to my TBR list. You've gotten me to add another one.....


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