Posted: October 13, 2013 in review, Spain, Sweden, Uncategorized

 Annika Bengtzon turns down the offer from Anders Schyman to be lead editor at the Evening Post and finds herself on a rota with Patrik, her new boss, giving her orders. Then a 515i2VGp3SL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_story comes her way as the news agency inform them about a whole family killed by gas used in a break in in Spain. 

‘Every break in uses gas. Gas-detectors are more common than fire-alarms in the villas of Nueva Andalucia.’ 

Annika learns that there is a large Swedish colony on the Costs del Sol, and the murdered family are the Soderstroms. The husband Sebastian was an ex-NHL ice hockey star who ran a tennis club, and the mother Veronica, a corporate lawyer with an office in Gibraltar, and probably some shady clients. When Annika realises that a teenage daughter Suzette was not killed in the gassing  she becomes involved in a difficult search for the missing girl which will take her across two continents

The Long Shadow is a direct sequel to Lifetime and I would advise anyone to read that book immediately before attempting this one. If there is too big a gap you might forget whose who! There are many characters and numerous familial connections with that novel. I wished I had made a chart of all the characters and their relationships because complex and convoluted don’t go far enough to describe a plot full of coincidences.

There are certain features that seem standard in recent Scandinavian crime fiction. There is a massive amount of detail packed into the 568 pages; the reader learns about the European drugs trade, money-laundering and financial crimes, narcotic drugs, naloxone and fatal doses of morphine, how journalists work in Sweden, and how Swedes enjoy the jet set lifestyle in Spain. The Swedish title of The Long Shadow is appropriately “en plats i solen”-A Place in the Sun.

The novel is an easy read because the narrative closely follows Annika’s progress and to enjoy these books you have to like or be interested in Annika Bengtzon. She is however a flawed heroine, egocentric and at times  impossible to work with; her clashes with photographer Lotta are one of the best parts of the story. Liza Marklund’s male characters are unfaithful pathetic creeps or violent villains, and It is sad that Annika has such poor judgement when it comes to her sex partners, and the reader is teased into thinking the unthinkable. Will she take trophy husband Thomas back?

I don’t think this is one of Marklund’s best books but despite the length, the very complex plot, being taken down paths that turn out to be dead ends or themes for future books, and the scattering of anti-Brit comments [which may be Agatha Christie like clues] I enjoyed reading about Annika’s adventures in the sun.

‘One in five households won’t join our little association because of the membership fee, which goes into gardener’s wages, pool maintenance and the satellite television dish. Isn’t that just dreadful?’ She drank some more wine.

‘They’re not welcome here. And guess what?’ She whispered in Annika’s ear: ‘They’re all Brits.’

Racism comes in all shapes and colours, Annika thought.

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – You have a well-taken point about this series. Annika Bengtzon’s character is one of the keys to really enjoying this series. I’m a fan, but even I agree with you completely that she has plenty of faults. To me anyway, that’s part of the appeal of the series; to see how she grows and evolves in a lot of ways.

  2. Jose Ignacio says:

    Nice review, as always, Norman.

  3. I often find Annika annoying but I still like reading her stories. I have just downloaded this one as an audio book though – decided I couldn’t face the enormous soft cover version. I’m not sure why these books (and so many others) need to be getting longer and longer

  4. kathy d. says:

    I’ll read this. I enjoy reading about Annika Bengtzon’s adventures, even if I get a stomach ache at the dangers in which she puts herself. But she’s a flawed character, as are most people in one way or another, and predictability isn’t always good in a book series — can get very boring and hackneyed. And Annika is far from boring.

    And I’d like a picket sign that says, “No doorstops; 300 pages or less!” If Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo could do it in 250 pages or less, and if Andrea Camilleri can tell his tales with brevity, so can other writers. I wonder if publishers are paying by the page. I see books with wider margins and larger type (that I appreciate), with many more pages that used to be the case, and I’m
    wondering about payments for pages.

  5. Norman Price says:

    Thanks Margot and Jose Ignacio.
    Bernadette and Kathy if dedicated readers like us quake at the sight of these doorstops what do less voracious readers do when faced by these huge books?

  6. Neil Smith says:

    A fine review, as ever, Norman. Out of curiosity, I’ve just taken a look at the word-counts for this book and the next in the series (provisionally titled Borderline): The Long Shadow weighs in at almost 150,000 words, Borderline a mere 110,000! (This might not be the best moment to say that I submitted a translation earlier this year that ran to 278,000 words…)

  7. kathy d. says:

    I am a dedicated reader, but 568 pages daunts me, too. I find as I age, I’m reading much more slowly and take a long time to read a book now. So, I’m for shorter books, although I’d imagine this one is fun and interesting.

  8. […] At Crime Scraps, Norman reviews Liza Marklund’s The Long Shadow, warning readers that it’s important to read Lifetime first. This entry in the Annika Bengtson series takes her to the Costa del Sol and is not, in Norm’s estimation, the best of the bunch. I’m afraid I find her taste in men deeply irritating! Flawed heroines are right up my alley, unless they have a soft spot for controlling idiots. Is “stupid” a flaw? If so, not the kind I like. […]

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