The Long Shadow
It’s very nice to have Liza Marklund back again, along with Annika Bengtzon. Bengtzon is Marklund’s intrepid creation, a newspaper reporter at the beginning of the end of an era when such an occupation is becoming extinct. THE LONG SHADOW builds on what has gone before while significantly advancing Bengtzon’s life, for good and otherwise, with the story balanced by her investigation into the apparently senseless killing of a family of Swedish nationals in a Spanish town.
THE LONG SHADOW picks up precisely where LIFETIME left off. Bengtzon’s husband has left her for another woman, and the resulting emotional turmoil is squared by the fact that they have joint custody of their two young children. That Bengtzon is in temporary housing as a result of her home being firebombed only adds to her troubles, as does the fact that her insurance company, suspicious that she is complicit in the arson, is withholding payment otherwise due under her policy. And, of course, her job is in jeopardy due to attrition. Her employer throws her a lifeline that she doesn’t want, but the sad fact is that Bengtzon, even in the best of circumstances, does not play well with others, particularly her new editor, a twit who knows little but just enough to get everyone in trouble.
"Marklund is adept at taking the reader by the hand and moving adroitly through complex plots without sacrificing depth or development."
Bengtzon’s first assignment --- one that seems to constantly shift and morph on an hourly basis --- under the new regime is to travel to a coastal town in Spain favored by Swedish expatriates in order to report on the death of a former hockey superstar and his family during the course of a home burglary that apparently went horribly though unintentionally wrong. The thieves, following a pattern used before, pumped knockout gas into the house while the family was sleeping; as a result, the sleeping parents, a grandmother and two children were asphyxiated.
During the course of reporting on the story, Bengtzon makes two startling discoveries. One is that the deaths of the family members, far from being accidental, appear to have been intentional. When the thieves are later discovered to have been murdered themselves in a similar manner, it becomes chillingly obvious that murder --- not robbery --- was behind the attack. The second discovery is that a third child, an older daughter, was not at home at the time and is now missing. It quickly becomes clear to Bengtzon that the girl is in danger from whoever murdered her family, and that the doer fully intends to finish the job.
Bengtzon’s editor is uninterested in the matter, believing that the drug trafficking and crime in the area is of greater interest to the newspaper’s readers than the human interest story that Bengtzon’s research has unearthed, as well as the underlying corruption that permits it to exist. Bengtzon is startled to find that she is the unintended and unwelcome subject of headlines of her own. She is even more surprised when her investigation circles back into her own past, as revelations upend some of her previous long-held assumptions and a story in which she had been involved takes a new, dramatic and deadly turn.
THE LONG SHADOW is built upon a lot of backstory, so if you have not read what has gone before (LIFETIME, at the very least), you may find yourself lost at sea. You also will have missed some great reading. Marklund is adept at taking the reader by the hand and moving adroitly through complex plots without sacrificing depth or development. The result is a canon that, despite breadth and length, reads quickly. Pick up on the backstory, and read THE LONG SHADOW. It will leave you satisfied yet wanting more.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 20, 2014