Forethoughts: Shadow by Karin Alvtegen

Such is the cover art for Shadow, that when I first slipped it out of its Jiffy Bag, I rolled my eyes, let out a big sigh and mumbled “Oh Great! Another misery memoir to throw on the never-to-be-read shelf.” A grungy dark cover complete with faux scratches and stains, and a dejected toddler sitting on a step, staring with hopeful eyes into the distance, Shadow looks for all intents and purposes like another ‘true’ story of a woeful childhood; one that’s sure to bring the dark clouds of depression floating over the head of its reader (the primary reason why I’m not fond of this particular genre). Thankfully, Shadow is nothing of the sort, and it’s actually the new novel from Karin Alvtegen.

I’ll show my ignorance right from the start and confess to never having read anything by Karin Alvtegen before. I did my homework though (HERE is her official website for instance) and I spent a bit of time finding out a little more about her (not too difficult because as it always is, the author bio is to be found at the back of the book). Swedish by birth (a good start because I’ve a thing for international authors :o)), it turns out that Karin Alvtegen is a bit of a literary ‘demi-god’ in Scandinavian crime-novel writing circles, having won the Glass Key Award in 2000 for her novel Missing, and producing two more acclaimed novels, the equally singularly titled Betrayal and Shame. Shadow i.e. the one that sits before me in case you’d forgotten :o), is Karin’s fourth translated-to-English novel and it enjoys its translated UK release on the 19th of this month.

So what’s Shadow all about then? Well I can only go with what others have told me at this time so I’ll turn you over to the official cover blurb, which reads as follows:

As darkness falls on 10 May 1975, a little boy waits alone on the steps of an amusement park. The park is about to close and everyone is leaving, except this child. He continues to wait there, not daring to move. He has been told to stay right where he is.

Only no one is coming back for him

Why has he been abandoned, with only the briefest of notes to whoever finds him? And what connection do the events of this day have to the death of Gerda Persson thirty years later – a woman who leaves few clues to her life, apart from a freezer full of books?

Shadow is an unputdownable story of dark secrets, murder and the depths to which the human mind will sink in order to protect its own…

An abandoned child? A freezer full of books? Murder? Dark secrets? How can one resist not reading this novel, especially with that enigmatic morsel – a sub-zero storage solution for books! :o) I’m sold! I’m off to read it and I’ll be back once I’ve put this ‘unputdownable’ (is that really a word?) book down. Until then – vi ses senare! (which I’ve reliably convinced myself means ‘see you later’ in Swedish).

Book Details
Publisher: Canongate Books
Published: 19 Feb 2009
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320 pages
ISBN: 9781847671707

**Novel now read! ‘Afterthoughts’ can be found HERE.


A note about Forethoughts
Forethoughts offer an insight into my initial thoughts and impressions of a book before I read it. Informal and largely written as a stream-of-consciousness exercise in a single sitting, my ‘forethoughts’ capture an important stage of the reading experience for me, that anticipatory period before the book is first opened, when excitement is piqued for the literary ‘journey’ which lies ahead.
Captured with an undertone of blissful ignorance, at a time when the book has yet to begin its transition from being an unknown entity in my mind, to eventually being something I’m wholly familiar with, my ‘forethoughts’ uniquely record my first impressions, my expectations and my preconceptions of a book. Combine my ‘forethoughts’ with my ‘afterthoughts’ (review) and what you have is a record of a very personal journey through that book.
About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. I love books like this. I just finished reading another great thriller titled, “Threshold,” by Bonnie Kozek – It’s dense, dark, urban, and scary book that I couldn’t put down! I am always on the look for other books to read, and plan to check “Shadow” out- thanks for the great tip!

  2. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

    Becky – thank you for your comments. Unlike you I’m largely unfamiliar with the crime genre so this is a new experience for me. If it works out well then I’ll be sure to check out your recommendation. ‘Dense’, ‘dark’, ‘urban’ and ‘scary’ are all the kind of words I like in description of a book :o)

  3. Rob, I highly recommend BETRAYAL as your second Alvtegen read. A creepy and insidious suspense novel in the trappings of ‘normal, everyday life’. Your Swedish is correct — you might like to know that all of Karin Alvtegen’s novels so far have had one-word titles that begin with ‘S’: SAKNAD, SVEK, SKAM, and now SKUGGA. How long can she keep it up? The ‘S’ section is the biggest one in the Swedish dictionary! And thanks for the compliment. — McKinley B

  4. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

    Mr. Burnett – I’m honoured that you’ve taken the time to drop by, and not a little cocky that I got my Swedish correct :o) Your recommendation is duly noted and added to my wishlist (I’ve even spoken about it in one of my posts this evening).

    See I knew Alvtegen’s titles were all single-worded, but I never noticed that all of them, in their original vernacular, started with an ‘S’. As you credibly inform though, it looks like she’s still got plenty of possible titles to choose from :o)

  5. Thanks Rob,
    Call me Mac. It’s blogs like yours that keep me in suspenseful reading material in between jobs. And it’s always encouraging to hear reactions from real readers, for whom we do this work… and the mortgage, of course.
    Karin tells me that she’s hard at work on her next one, and they just keep getting better.
    Best from the desert.

  6. P.S. I forgot her first book, SKULD (Guilt). A better idea than doing the whole alphabet, I think.

  7. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

    Mac – “suspenseful reading material” Emmm I don’t know why you’re wasting your time here then :o) Unless your honing your spellchecking and grammar error spotting skills of course :o)