Edwardson, Ake - 'Frozen Tracks' (translated by Laurie Thompson)
Although long, FROZEN TRACKS is a satisfying read, both in terms of plot and characterisation. Edwardson introduced his series characters DCI Erik Winter and colleagues in his two previous books, SUN AND SHADOW and NEVER END, and in this third outing the characters have matured into a familiar team with distinct identities. (Thankfully yet unusually, Edwardson's novels so far have been published as translations in series order, though starting with the third in the series rather than the first.)
In the run-up to Christmas in Gothenburg, two sets of crimes are occurring. The more dramatic sequence involves a series of young men who are brutally attacked at night, possibly with a branding iron. More subtly, various young children tell their parents that a strange "mister" has taken them for a ride in his car. This second, disturbing set of crimes goes undiscovered for some time, partly because they occur in the suburbs so are reported to different police stations who do not communicate efficiently, and partly because there is some doubt in both the parents' and police minds as to whether the children are making up their stories.
Part of the novel is a straight police-procedural investigation, describing how the detectives seek out clues and gradually piece together evidence. Although there is no indication that the two sets of crimes are connected, the reader suspects that they might be, and indeed this proves to be the case. However, because there are two apparently distinct investigations, the chapters told from the point of view of the criminal have an uneasy feel to them, as the reader is never sure which crimes the perpetrator is responsible for.
I like the characters of Winter, his team and the descriptions of their domestic lives. As with everything else in this book, these are understated, but effective – Winter's new family and the gradual steps that the bereaved Halvers is taking towards a new family life are absorbing.
There is also plenty of dry humour in the book, but where it really comes into its own are the descriptions of the young children and their accounts of their experiences. Edwardson also writes books for children, and Winter's (and other police staff's) questioning of their young witnesses is portrayed with great believability and sensitivity. I was not quite as compelled by the scenes of rural life, but this is a minor point in a book that overall is a good, old-fashioned (in the best sense) read. Laurie Thompson turns in his usual superb translation, conveying vernacular and jokes with apparent ease.
Read another review of FROZEN TRACKS.
Maxine Clarke, England