Tuesday, February 27, 2007


"Sir, I have read Henning Mankell."

"Henning Mankell is one of my favourite authors."

"You're no Henning Mankell."

[With apologies to Lloyd Bentsen, and his comparison of Dan Quayle to Jack Kennedy in the Vice-Presdential debate in 1988 ]

It must be me, but I found Ake Edwardson's Sun and Shadow very very heavy going.

Ake Edwardson has worked as a journalist, and as a press officer for the UN. He has written books on journalism, and creative writing. He has even won the Swedish Crime Writers' Award for best crime novel three times.

It must be me.

Erik Winter, Sweden's youngest chief inspector faces a barrage of problems and traumas. His father dies in a Spanish hospital. His wife Angela is pregnant and suspects he has had a "sun and sea" affair, while visiting his father in hospital, and on top of that he has to investigate a particularly horrific double murder.

I should have liked Erik Winter he loves the jazz of John Coltrane, Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden, and he cooks interesting meals. He does not just reheat or go to trattorias like Salvo Montalbano, but he actually cooks . Sliced herring, stuffed woodcock, oysters, and rack of veal with mashed garlic and pesto, are prepared for Winter's wife and family.

Why did I not warm to him, or to the book?

Perhaps it is the disjointed almost television script style to the novel that prevents you really caring about the characters, or getting involved in the plot. The subplots are seemingly just there to create suspects, and the actual story is formulaic.

But the pace of the investigation of these crimes is funereal, and plainly incompetent with basic police work being ignored as we follow the problems rather than the clues and procedures.

And there are plenty of problems, Hanne Ostergaard, the police chaplain is counselling Stefan Morelius, who is suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome following witnessing an accident. Her daughter Maria is fairly uncontrollable, and Maria's boyfriend Patrik is being abused by his drunken father, while almost being a witness to the double murder.

Policeman Lars Bergenhem is suffering from terrible headaches and thinks he has a brain tumour, which means we are expected to list him as a suspect.

It must be me, but half way through the book I was getting the same terrible headaches as Bergenhem, and wondering where all these depressing side plots were going.

The one person who might have been a little bit interesting, the black policewoman Aneta Djanal, born in Gothenburg to parents who had left the troubled African nation of Burkina Faso, was not fully developed as a character.

A little bit of forensic psychology, a tape of death metal music, a trip into the Old Testament prophets, a third horrific murder, some pornographic magazines and after 500 odd pages, and some 5 months of investigation a little progress is made.

"Why hast thou shewn me iniquity and grievance, to see rapine and injustice before me? " Prophecy of Habbakuk chapter 1 verse 3

The novel ends with a predictable kidnapping, a contrived twist and an anti-climax as it rushes to the conclusion in a seemingly desperate rush to finish within a certain page count.

It must be me.

Perhaps I have read too many taut, lean, mean crime novels to wade through 505 pages of atmosphere and angst, without feeling cheated.

"The Gothenburg police are hopeless when it comes to that kind of thing"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was saw not good opinions about Ake Edwardson in Poland.
But I didn't to red him.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Judytta, do you come from Poland?
I enjoyed all the other Scandinavian crime fiction I had read so I was surprised that I could not get interested in this book.

2:40 AM  

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