The Shadow Woman (Swedish title Dans med en ängel) is the second book in the Erik Winter series by Ake Edwardson, even though it is the fifth book to be translated into English. It is a very good police procedural with an interesting and tense plot.
We meet up with Erik Winter in the middle of a very hot summer in the Swedish city of Gothenburg; the annual Gothenburg Party is in full swing, and this year the bacchanalian blowout is simmering with ethnic discord spurred by nationalist gangs. Erik Winter is vacationing, but get a little tired of it, so when a colleague of his is brutally attacked on the streets and ends up in hospital with a broken jaw, and the body of a murdered woman is found close to a lake in the outskirts of the city, he quickly ends his vacation.
The police find very little evidence on the site where the body was found – the only clue is a red symbol on a tree above her that holds little meaning to them – and nothing that can tell them about the identity of the victim. There are no witnesses. Marks on the body indicate that she has been murdered elsewhere and then moved to this location.
Winter and his colleagues know this will be a hard case to solve. They start with the obvious steps: to establish the identity of the victim and try to locate witnesses – people who might have seen something usual, people who have seen a car nearby, or something else of interest. The autopsy of the body shows that the victim has been strangled and that she has had at least one child.
But that’s it. The police are unable to learn the identity of the murdered woman – she is not on the list of missing people, and reports her missing from work or home. It is as if she didn’t exist or has lived her life in the shadows. Even so, Winter has to solve this murder and also find the unidentified victim’s child before it is too late.
Even when Winter and his team establish the identity of the victim, it soon becomes clear that it is difficult to find out more about her. As they start to uncover facts about her, they find evidence that leads to organized crime gangs in Sweden and Denmark and back to a brutal bank robbery a long time ago. What is it that ties the murdered woman to that awful crime that took place so long ago in a different country when she must have been just a child? And why did the past come alive in this fashion now – why was she killed?
The investigation in this excellent police procedural is very difficult. The book is, in my opinion, very good; actually very fascinating because of the great descriptions of the challenging police work and the tedious process of connecting the dots. The character descriptions are good and contribute strongly to the realism of the story. The Shadow Woman is a high quality Swedish crime fiction novel and very interesting to read, especially if you like police procedurals.