Sunday, July 10, 2016

Swedish Crime Fiction from Carl-Johan Vallgren, THE BOY IN THE SHADOWS

A few months ago, the University of Minnesota Press completed its publication of all three books in Norwegian author Vidal Sunstøl's "Minnesota Trilogy" of Norway/Minnesota crime fiction, richly underlaid with mysticism and the deep ringing notes of an author who writes far more deeply than "genre" fiction labels suggest. I treasured all three -- but as a Vermont resident, it was the second title, Only the Dead, that shook me and lingers in my mind as if I'd experienced it.

Now another link to the American Midwest rises with the newly published American version of Carl-Johan Vallgren's THE BOY IN THE SHADOWS: Brought across the Atlantic by Quercus (owned by Hodder and Stoughton), the novel was translated from Swedish by Madison, Wisconsin, resident Rachel Willson-Broyles, who took advantage of the Midwest's historic connection with the Scandinavians to become an expert in bringing one language into taut, exhilarating coupling with another. Every page of THE BOY IN THE SHADOWS feels like it's written in a native American language (with a touch of British), allowing Vallgren's disturbing currents of menace and despair to flow freely. The book is Vallgren's crime fiction debut, although he has a long track record in other Swedish fiction and is an award-winning and much-heralded author (and musician) in his native land.

What malice, what evil, in someone's past erupts in violent murder? And are there currents that swirl definitively both forward and back in time from the ultimate evils? Danny Katz, a recovering heroin addict with a significant Jewish identity, is about to find out, when an old military friend's wife asks him for help finding her missing husband. Could Joel, the eventual heir to the Klingberg family wealth, have cracked under pressure of his own long-ago disaster? What are the powerful Swedish family's roots in both Scandinavia and the Caribbean?

Danny's past makes him an easy victim, and it's soon clear he's being set up in several ways. But he's determined to keep a commitment to locating Joel -- until the level of danger sweeps away almost all of what he values. The arrival of another individual determined to unravel the knot of the past, Eva Westin, provides a scrap of hope that Danny may elude the net cast for him. But what will he have to surrender in return?

Brace for a long series of unexpected but highly satisfying plot twists in this one -- if you are collecting Scandinavian crime fiction, it's a must for your shelf, but it will also intrigue those who appreciate what a shared military past can impose on a friendship ... as well as readers who appreciate how the power of the industrial and scientific complex can become a dark and terrifying force.

No website for the author at present, and the Wikipedia page is sadly lacking, but Quercus offers a bit on Vallgren here. Another translation from Vallgren, The Tunnel, is underway.

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