Archive for November, 2010


Interview: Åke Edwardson, author of The Shadow Woman

November 1, 2010

K.E. Semmel has appeared before on this site offering reviews and hosting interviews — and then being interviewed himself for his notable translation work. Semmel has recently completed translating one of Karin Fossum’s crime novels (forthcoming in Britain and here in the U.S.), and this new focus on crime fiction and translation makes him the perfect person to interview another notable Scandinavian crime writer, Åke Edwardson, whose own latest book, The Shadow Woman, has recently been released in the U.S. I’m pleased to welcome both Semmel and Edwardson here now.

Swedish novelist Åke Edwardson has written twenty books, eleven of which involve his signature character, Chief Inspector Erik Winter. One of Scandinavia’s most successful crime writers, he has won numerous awards, including the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award three times. Before devoting himself full-time to his writing, he worked as a journalist and as a press officer at the United Nations. The Shadow Woman is his fifth novel to appear in English, following Sun and Shadow, Never End, Frozen Tracks (all translated by Laurie Thompson), and Death Angels (translated by Ken Schubert). His website (in Swedish) is An English-language fan site can be found at

K.E. Semmel: The Shadow Woman is in many ways a novel about the human casualties of crime—first and foremost Helene Andersén, who was orphaned by crime, traumatized by it, and who seems to have never developed intimacy in her life. The same can be said about Inspector Winter and tough-guy cop Halders: both are consumed by crime, though in different ways. So the novel is as much about crime’s emotional impact as it is about the traditional fare of a good crime novel: the crime investigation. How do you balance the emotional aspect of your characters with the need to create a compelling plot?

Åke Edwardson

Åke Edwardson: That’s the trick really, to find that balance. Characters and plot are equal in any story in any genre. You can’t make do with just the one. A writer’s job is to tell a story, and there has to be someone to tell it about.

Now, I write different kinds of stories in different genres, and when it comes to these novels about Erik Winter, they are—and this is salient in the crime genre—linked together and that link is the characters. I’ve published ten novels about Erik Winter and the people around him, and at the very beginning I decided to start with this guy being a pretty insecure young man, good at his job but bad at about everything else—such as relationships, for instance. He was meant to develop over the course of fifteen years and he surely has, more than I anticipated!

You got to have the same demand on good crime writing as on any writing, and this includes the emotional depth of the characters. They could either be one-, two- or three-dimensional. It depends on how good the writer is.

Being a crime investigator is not any old job. It gets to you if you are not a total cynic. If the investigator is intelligent enough to be consumed by crime, he is my guy, and deserves a novel or ten.

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