The Boy in the Shadows
Author: Carl-Johan Vallgren
Is The Boy in the Shadows another Girl in the Dragon Tattoo? Not quite but a stellar performance from Swedish author Carl-Johan Vallgren’s debut crime thriller.
In a crowded train station in Stockholm in 1970 a seven year old boy disappears, is kidnapped, when separated from his father and younger brother. It seems an older woman offers to help little Kristoffer up the stairs while his dad and brother are looking at the train, and in seconds they vanish.
Today it is 2010, 40 years later, we come across Danny Katz, a computer hacker and language specialist, and ex drug addict. Socialite Angela Klingberg calls Danny out of the blue. Her well to do husband and former classmate of Danny’s has disappeared. Angela tells Danny that Joel always told her that Danny was the only person he had ever trusted in school. While Danny finds that hard to believe, he agrees to try to help Angela find her husband for the money. He is not really an investigator; he makes his living by translating and transcribing documents from other languages into Swedish for various businesses. His prior job was with Capitol Security Group and his only real friend is the founder of the firm, Rickard Julin who has helped him repeatedly. Danny used to work for Julin a long time ago as a military interpreter and Julin has helped Danny with jobs ever since. Long ago when Danny was into drugs and on the streets, Julin met him by chance and paid for him to go to rehab and gave him a job. Although Danny knows he is not qualified to find a missing person, and Julin’s company would do a better job, he decides to help Angela because he knew Joel in school.
As The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo motif faded halfway through the novel, I felt reminiscent of Smilla’s Sense of Snow, a Danish novel that stunned me in 1992. But rather than challenge Vallgren with a comparison of previous Scandinavian authors, the sense of time, the surrealness of Vallgren’s writing and prose are original and his own. I do find that the Scandinavian authors are so talented in their ability to pull us into a landscape and their characters that defines their crime genre and I love the beautiful writing as well as the amazing plots.
But back to Danny Katz.
Danny has a family; his two girls. And this investigation is proving difficult with his family life. But he is determined to discover Joel’s disappearance. And as he follows the labyrinthine path of Joel Klingberg’s last day Danny finds himself set up for the murder of Angela Klingberg. There are other people looking for Joel Klingberg and Danny is in their way. And another funny thing. The clues point to a chilling truth: the disappearance of Joel and the murder start pointing Danny to 1970 and his brother’s abduction.
He discovers that Klingberg found out that his wife had an affair with his uncle and Danny figures he went into hiding after killing his wife, the murder that Danny is being set up for. And then Danny finds a picture of Rickard Julin in a suspicious setting and things begin to come together.
Perfect crime drama; great plot and with an emotional coldness to the characters that provides the correct chill, Vallgren’s new, strange hero and his helpmate, Eva, seem to be about to provide a series worth reading. Gritty, real, creepy and wonderfully tight, The Boy in the Shadows gives us a new crime writer to adore: Carl-Johan Vallgren.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A”
We received a product to facilitate our review. All opinions are our own
- You can pick up this book on Amazon.com here: The Boy in the Shadows or at a bookseller near you.