“She sat with Mommy a long time, She slept for a while in the backseat and then crawled up front. It was cold there and Mommy started the car and let it run for a while and then turned it off again. Mommy hadn’t answered when she’d asked, so she asked again and Mommy’s voice was hard. So she went quiet. ‘Why isn’t he coming?’ Mommy said but straight out and not to her. ‘Where in God’s name is he?’ ”
The main action of THE SHADOW WOMAN takes place in the late 1990’s (the book was published in Sweden in 1998) but the book begins in the 1970’s with the paragraph quoted above.
After the initial chapter, the story moves to a brutally hot day in August and the discovery of a woman’s body in a ditch by a lake near Gothenberg. Detective Chief Inspector Erik Winter of the Homicide Division is called to the scene. There is nothing with the body, nothing that could give any hint of her identity. Erik names her Helene and he promises that he will discover her real name so that she has an identity in death. He becomes even more committed to her when the autopsy reveals that she has had at least one child. Where is the child? Might the child also be dead?
As the team investigates, and the story moves from the 70’s to the 90’s and back again, it seems that the shadow woman may in fact be more than one woman who disappeared without a trace. Each bit of new evidence increases Erik’s fear that the child of the dead woman might be alive and held by whomever killed her mother. When Erik discovers a link to another crime, he travels to Denmark for information on his case and to help the Danish police solve a crime that left a police officer dead.
In his personal life, Erik is caught between his girlfriend, Angela, and his job. Angela is prepared to leave their relationship if Erik can’t make a committment to her. His parents repeatedly ask him to visit them in Spain, his sister keeps calling him, finally getting a promise that he will come to her birthday party. All the people in his life see that his life has become his work, leaving little room for anyone else.
THE SHADOW WOMAN starts slowly; it is one of the first books Edwardson wrote in the Erik Winter series. Those of us who have read the other books know more about Erik’s life than he does in this book. Eventually, the reader is drawn in completely as the shadow women are released from all the secrets and lies that burden generations. The author builds his story layer by layer, slowly revealing motives and murderers.
Ake Edwardson writes dark stories that center on a detective who sees everything in black and shades of gray. Erik Winter is a compelling character and, as the series develops, Edwardson writes in a manner that pulls the reader in to the story more quickly.
Edwardson in another great Nordic writer worth seeking out.