Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Shadow Woman by Ake Edwardson

It's difficult to tell what the main problem with this book is - the prose, or the translation. It could be either. Or both. But either way, in English, this book is clunky. The prose is distracting and frequently uses turns of phrase that make me shake my head. (Someone could see the headache? Through your skull? As opposed to just noticing that you were acting like you had a headache?) It's so devoid of elegance or grace, and isn't even serviceable. It's just bad.

But that might not be the author's fault. Might be the translation.

However, the clunky prose was accompanied by characters who frequently did inexplicable things, and made comments that rang so false and weird. Remember what I wrote about 419 by Will Ferguson, where I was saying I like books that make the strange familiar, but they have to actually do so? Like that book, this is just strange, just reactions that seem 10 degrees off of true, but with no explanation as to why. I refuse to believe it's just because I'm not Swedish.

When the mystery finally comes together at the end, it's a fairly good reveal, but the trip to get there was painful. The detectives seemed to be floundering, their bafflement about their victim meaning that I got very little sense of what was going on or that it even might tie together in the end, let alone a sense of how. I don't mind not knowing how, but for much of the book, I really felt like it might not tie together at all. That they might find the killer and it would be so entirely random as to have made reading this book pointless.

A woman is found dead in the woods. No one knows who she is. She is not on any radar, seems to have no family or friends. The young police inspector (inspector? I'm fuzzy on how Swedish police might work) Erik Winter is just coming back to work from a vacation. (I haven't read the first book in the series, so I don't know if this is vacation laden with narrative meaning that I'm just missing.)

They know the car might be a Ford Escort. Or at least, a car seen near the police scene. That's about it. Eventually, the woman's identity comes to light, but these details are like pulling teeth. Might be accurate, but then I need some good scenes with the police that explore how they deal with a case like this.  There are procedural scenes, but character development is lacking.

And boy, is it. Winter doesn't want to settle down with his girlfriend. Why? He doesn't go to see his sister or nieces very often, even though he likes them. Why? There seems to be some hostility from the brass. Why? (Maybe these are all explained in the first book, granted.) But a lot of it seems like throwing traits at the wall without thought for how they might go together.

Ultimately, this was a barely satisfying mystery. The story, when it does come together, piqued my interest slightly, but by then, it was almost too late. Perhaps in better translation, although this stiffness of prose might be the original too. Hard to say.

No comments:

Post a Comment