I would not normally want to compare one book with another in terms of favourability, but Ake Edwardson’s Frozen Tracks, the third of his Inspector Erik Winter novels to find its way into English, is everything that The Return was not. It weighs in at almost 450 pages, but feels neither too long nor too short. It is extremely carefully and intricately plotted and makes for a far more satisfying read as a result.
Here we have Winter investigating two seemingly unconnected crimes (or series of crimes), which turn out, of course, to be very connected. The Whodunnit element is not so much about who is the perpetrator of the crimes, but what or who lies further behind in the background – who is the bigger criminal? In this sense, the lines between victim and abuser , the innocent and the guilty, are shown to be both clear and blurred at the same time.
The novel alternates its setting between the cosmopolitan city of Gothenburg and the rural backwater of Sweden with its vast flat landscapes, brooding and featureless (one of the reasons, it is suggested, why Sweden has such a high suicide rate). Edwardson, like Henning Mankell, is skilled in using the landscape to create atmosphere, capture mood and also to act as a metaphor for a troubled and dysfunctional society.
Winter himself is a workaholic, but one who recognises his own weakness. He is constantly torn between his job and sense of duty and his love for his long-suffering and tolerant partner and their young daughter. What Edwardson does so well is to use the stories of the personal lives of Winter and his colleagues to create a more quotidien reflection of the social issues surrounding the criminal investigation. In doing so he introduces a sense of added realism to the sensationalism of the thriller genre, and to provide a degree of social commentatry in his writing. Interestingly, perhaps, Edwardson is also a professor in creative writing at the University of Gothenburg. As might be expected then, this is masterful and intelligent stuff.