The Long Shadow by Liza Marklund

the long shadowSeries…or serial?

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

When the family of a Swedish sport star is gassed to death during a robbery on the Costa del Sol, the Evening Post sends reporter Annika Bengtzon to cover the story. Meanwhile a reorganisation at the newspaper means that Annika’s colleague Patrik has been promoted to be her new boss. And the appeal is about to be heard for Filip Andersson, a man convicted of murder, apparently in a previous book.

This is a very well written slowburn thriller that takes Nordic crime away from the cold of the north to the sunshine of Spain. Marklund gives a real feel for these ex-pats living in the brash world of the Costa Cocaine, as Patrik wishes to dub it. The story lets us see how the police are failing to stop the drug route through Spain from the hash farms in Morocco and on to the rest of Europe. Annika’s character is well developed and she’s a likeable lead although with the usual confused personal life. She’s not superwoman, thankfully – just a hard-working, professional journalist with a well-defined set of ethics. And we see her as a caring mother to her two young children and struggling to come to terms with the break-up of her marriage.

Liza Marklund
Liza Marklund

Many crime novels are part of a series where each book can be read on its own merits. However, this one is very much part of a serial – i.e. the main plot clearly runs on from book to book and this is an instalment rather than a distinct story. Unfortunately this means the book doesn’t work as a standalone. I spent most of my time baffled about characters whose story had obviously begun in the previous books, which I haven’t read; and as all the threads began to come together my lack of knowledge of who had done what and why in previous books meant I hadn’t a clue what was going on. And unfortunately that confusion continued right through to the end. And yet, so much of the book was given over to retelling bits of previous instalments I am left with little desire to backtrack, especially since I now know what has happened to many of the recurring characters. Of course, it’s quite normal for there to be a running story arc in the background, but I’ve never come across another crime novel where the main plot was so dependant on a thorough knowledge of the previous books.

I’m reluctant to mark it down because I’m sure that for people who’ve been following the serial this will be an interesting and enjoyable read. Even with my problems with understanding the plot, there was much that I enjoyed – the quality of the dialogue, the characterisation, the sense of place, Annika’s family life. So 4 stars from me, but I doubt I’ll be reading the past books, since this book contains so many spoilers about them. And while this instalment felt as if it had come to a proper, if rather incomprehensible, conclusion, I wouldn’t be willing to read any future books unless I could be sure that major plot points didn’t rely on the reader knowing about things that happened in the previous books. Shame.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House.

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23 thoughts on “The Long Shadow by Liza Marklund

  1. FictionFan – I do like this series, and I’m glad you thought this was a ‘four-smiley’ novel. But you’re right that these books really don’t work as standalones. It’s not a problem as you say if one’s read the other novels. And I recommend just that. But you’re right that it’s hard to ‘dive into’ the series at any point. Still, very good to hear this was a solid entry in the series.Top-notch review as ever.

    • Yes, it’s unfortunate that it’s not made clear either in the blurb or on the cover that this doesn’t work as a standalone. We’re all used to being able to drop in and out of series in crime and I’m sure I won’t be the only person to be put off Marklund unnecessarily…

  2. FictionFan – My undertstanding is that within the Annika Bengtzon series, Nobels testamente (2006; English translation Last Will, trans. Neil Smith, 2012), Livstid (2007; English translation Lifetime, trans. Neil Smith, 2013) and En plats i solen (2008; English translation The Long Shadow, trans. Neil Smith, 2013) should be considered a trilogy and therefore should be read in chronological order. The publisher should inform about this important detail.
    From my side I plan to read The Long Shadow soon, so have only skimmed through you review until I write my blog post.

    • Interesting you should say that, Jose Ignacio – I got this as a review copy and in my comments back to the publisher I said just what you did – that the publisher should make the point in the blurb that these should be read in order. However, if you’ve read the earlier ones, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this – there was much to like in it.

  3. 😆 I think FEF is the only one who wouldn’t start with the first book…

    A great review, though. It does seem like it would be interesting.

    You are not seriously reading S&S, are you? *a mad professorish face*

    • Cheeky Chicky! Not so – most crime series can be read in any order..

      Not only am I reading the original S&S, I’m just about to read the new version too…and I’ve just finished writng my review of P&P (the audio version). Unlike the Professor, FF likes books, even incombustible e-versions! 😉

      • I’m still wondering if I should like Cheeky Chicky or not…

        A new version? How horrid. Well, we can’t all be professorish.

        I’m rather sure that e-readers could burn…

        I think we should say: FEF is crazy about books; the professor is quite normal about them.

        • You should definitely like it… 😀

          We may be in agreement for once – I think it’s horrid too! I can’t imagine what I was thinking when I agreed to review it…

          But all the words would simply float up into the Cloud – from where they could rain down anywhere…perhaps even onto the professorial head…

          I would never be so rude as to describe the Professor as normal!

    • Me neither – I prefer each book to have a plot of its own, even if it has a running story arc in the background. Disappointing – and I’d imagine it’s going to get lots of poor reviews since it’s not being made clear in the blurb that the other books must be read first.

    • The real disappointment is that this instalment contains so many spoilers about the earlier ones that I don’t even want to backtrack. Bad marketing, I’m afraid. But if you’ve been following the series then I’m sure you’ll like this one.

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