The Shadow Woman, published last year, is Ake Edwardson’s second novel in his series of novels featuring Chief Inspector Erik Winter and set in Gothenburg. However, if you are like me then you will have been reading them all in the wrong order, as the early novels have more recently been published by Penguin in the US, whereas the later novels (Sun and Shadow, Never End and Frozen Tracks) have all been available in the UK for a few years now. But reading the books out of order is an interesting exercise in itself, disrupting the authorial intention at least.
I thoroughly enjoyed the later three books, all of which have the relentless pace and energy of Jo Nesbo, but was slightly disappointed when I finally got hold of Death Angels, the first in the series. I found it somewhat underdeveloped in both plot and character and full of loose ends and unexplained connections. It felt very much like the novel of a writer who was just beginning to experiment with the genre. The Shadow Woman provides a good bridge between the early and the later novels. The central characters are more developed and three-dimensional here and the plot has a much greater complexity and it ultimately makes for a more satisfying read than Death Angels. Yet there are still a few leaps of narrative faith that are expected of the reader.
Winter is typical of the modern detective, especially the Scandanavian or North European detective, in that his professional and private lives stand in stark contrast to each other. As obsessive and successful as he is professionally, he is negligent and dysfunctional privately. Whilst Winter is not as hopeless as many fictional detectives in his private relationships (nor is his private world as bleak), the novel is punctured with the narrative of his inability to make a commitment to his long-suffering girlfriend, Angela, and remains distant from his parents and sister. Winter may be able to solve a crime and bring a perpetrator to justice through his dogged commitment to the policing process, but the failures of his private life are marked by an equal lack of commitment. Winter’s private world, like society itself, remains broken.