The Boy in the Shadows by Carl-Johan Vallgren and Rachel Willson-Broyles (Translator)
|The Boy in the Shadows by Carl-Johan Vallgren and Rachel Willson-Broyles (Translator)|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A bloody, gritty, Swedish crime thriller with some incredibly exciting set pieces as the unsolved disappearance of a child decades before resurfaces.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 432||Date: January 2015|
As a toddler Joel witnessed his elder brother Kristoffer being abducted from Stockholm Station. Now, years later, the adult Joel goes missing. Joel's wife asks Danny Katz, one of Joel's friends from his military service days, to investigate. Danny has a hunch that Joel's disappearance may be connected to Kristoffer's but before he has a chance to prove it, he realises the danger he himself is in. The mystery is deepening and Danny's about to fall in.
The book blurb describes Swedish author and recording artist Carl-Johan Vallgren as one of Sweden's most beloved writers. It's safe to surmise that the love is shared around as his novels have been translated into 25 languages. However this is a first for both of us: his first foray into thrillers and the first of his novels I've read. My verdict is that it's rather impressive with a couple of reservations. Let's get them out the way first.
In places there are large chunks of undiluted exposition as we're quickly brought up to speed with background. This isn't everyone's plate of pickled herring and it did get a bit wearing. However there is a lot of information that will come in handy later when the tension is ramped up (and it definitely is) so sticking with it certainly pays off.
The other niggle is that we're asked to suspend our disbelief from a great height. For instance Sweden may be a small country but it's a wonderful coincidence that a certain person from Danny's past (no spoilers!), the only person who has a reason to believe him in fact, is in a job in which they can try to help.
Having said that, the novel is definitely worth precariously dangling that disbelief and sucking up the exposition. The other 75% is an exciting, bloody trail which starts with Danny investigating but ends with him in a completely different role altogether.
This is certainly not a book for the kiddies. It's violent with a high body count and a way of examining issues like racism in an adult way. Although it is a good choice for those who don't like to mull too long over who the baddie is. No sooner are the clues before us than conspirators are named. I did groan when I realised, thinking it would alienate those of us who like a good mull and muse before the reveal but I needn't have worried; the excitement was far from impaired.
It's not just excitement that Carl-Johan generates; these are characters with bold texture. Let's take Danny for example. An ex-addict with a violent past that was overlooked by benefactors, enabling him to train in IT and intelligence despite lapses. He still has nightmares about his homeless, heroin riddled past life. He's definitely skilfully written: despite not having the most sympathetic start in life, Danny is so engaging that we're plumping for him throughout. He may be a flawed hero, but he's our flawed hero, darn it!
Oh yes, grittiness abounds till we reach the pinnacle – a deliciously scary, bloodthirsty climax I defy anyone to read without all the lights on. This is followed by the discovery of a motive that comes satisfyingly out of left field.
For Carl-Johan's thriller writing career the best may be yet to come but this is a blooming good start.
(Thank you Quercus for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you'd like to read more of the Swedish crime cream, we heartily recommend Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Boy in the Shadows by Carl-Johan Vallgren and Rachel Willson-Broyles (Translator) at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Boy in the Shadows by Carl-Johan Vallgren and Rachel Willson-Broyles (Translator) at Amazon.com.
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