Monday, 20 June 2011


Title: Shadow

Author: Karin Alvtegen

Number of pages: 320

Started: 14 June 2011

Finished: 20 June 2011

Opening words:

‘When you hear the tone – ding-a-ling – it means it’s time to turn the page. Now we’ll begin.’

The voice on the tape had changed. It almost sounded like a man now, although he knew it was a lady. Once again he opened the Bambi book to the first page and listened to the story on the tape player. He knew it by heart. He had known it for a long time, but today he’d listened so many times that the lady’s voice was beginning to turn dark.

It had begun to grow dark around him as well; not as many mammas and pappas with kids and balloons were coming by any more. He was hungry. The buns he’d been given were all eaten up and the juice had made him want to pee, but she had told him that he should stay here, so he didn’t dare move. He was used to waiting. But he really had to pee now, and if she didn’t come and collect him soon he might wet himself. He didn’t want Mamma to get that look. The one that made him hurt and sometimes made her leave him alone in the dark. He put his hand on the sore spot he’d got yesterday when he didn’t want to go with her. Her eyes had turned so angry and she’d told him he was being naughty. And then his back had hurt. She wanted to go to that house so often. First take the bus and then the long walk. Sometimes she stayed with him out there, but sometimes she was gone for a long time, and he wasn’t allowed to bother her. There was a strange house of glass in the garden where it was rather fun to play, but not all the time and never alone. There was a little shed with wood in it too, where he could carve things even though he wasn’t allowed to play with knives. Sometimes she took such a long time it got dark. Then the ghosts came creeping out, and the thieves. The knife in the woodshed was his only protection. And the magic floorboard with the dark spot that looked like an eye. If he stood on it with the knife in his hand and sang ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star’ then they couldn’t get at him. Before, she used to say they were going to live in that house someday, not in the glass house or the one with the wood, but in the big one, and then he would have his own room. Everything would be all right then, she said.

Read the whole book here

Plot summary:

In a nondescript apartment block in Stockholm, most of the residents are elderly. Usually a death is a sad but straightforward event. But sometimes a resident will die and there are no friends or family to contact. This is when Marianne Folkesson arrives, employed by the state to close up a life with dignity and respect. Gerda Persson has lain dead in her apartment for three days before Marianne is called. When she arrives, she finds the apartment tidy and ordered. Gerda's life seems to have been quite ordinary. Until Marianne opens the freezer and finds it full of books, neatly stacked and wrapped in clingfilm, a thick layer of ice covering them. They are all by Axel Ragnerfeldt, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, with handwritten dedications to Gerda from the author. What story do these books have to tell, about Gerda, and more importantly about Ragnerfeldt, a man whose fame is without precedent in the nation's cultural life, but seldom gives interviews?

What I thought:

This was a return to some Scandinavian detective fiction for me, and also a return to reading a novel by Karin Alvtegen. This was a readable book, with a decent plot. That said, I thought it was very complicated in places and meant that at times you had to concentrate to keep up with who was who etc. However, it was also a crime novel that tried to get below the surface and was a book that wasn’t just about unravelling a mystery or two but also dwelt a bit on what makes people tick and do they things that they do. At times it was a sad read and wasn’t just about suspense and trying to shock the reader.

Whilst I think I preferred the previous book I read, there is a quality to Alvtegen’s books that makes me want to read more of her work.

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