Rebecca Martin's Reviews > Sail of Stone

Sail of Stone by Åke Edwardson
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's review
Apr 14, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: global-detective-fiction

The Edwardson style is straightforward and spare, even terse. Sometimes that style says too little, leaving the reader with questions of interpretation or wondering what she has missed. If you can live without everything being spelled out for you, you'll get much pleasure from this rather solemn book, one in a series set in Gothenburg, Sweden. Characters such as Erik Winter and Aneta Djanali , the principal investigators here, have great depth and seriousness; they truly have personalities and are not collections of stereotypes. What these two have in common in this book is emotional vacillation, an inability to commit to decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. What these two detectives also have in common in this particular novel is that they are each drawn into mysteries that are not really "cases" in the official sense. Winter is drawn in when he is contacted by a long ago girlfriend whose father may have gone missing; Djanali is drawn in by her curiosity about and wish to help a woman whom she believes has been abused. For a long time, it is unclear that a crime or crimes is involved in either mystery. Eventually, it is clear that crimes have been committed...but will we ever know what the crimes are? And will we know who is guilty of what? And in what sense can justice ever be served under such circumstances? Don't expect a neat ending, but do anticipate some beautiful, atmospheric writing about cities and small towns of the Scottish coast and many intriguing thoughts about the lives of fishermen and of lives lived on the sea.

Here is one striking passage about a third of the way through the book. Aneta is thinking about all the excuses for violence that she has heard over the years. Notice the way the ideas connect and move forward:

"Maybe it was true. He wanted to make good. It wouldn't happen again. But what had happened hadn't happened. Everything was a mistake, and mistakes were always other people's. Everything was a misunderstanding. The beatings were misunderstandings. Aneta had heard of so many misunderstandings during her career in the brotherhood. No one called it the sisterhood; that would have been absurd. She had heard of how language ceased and violence took over. Blows instead of words. The desperate and languageless hit. Men are hard and women are soft. Yes. They own, think they own, another person. Dominance. Complete control. A question of honor. In a twisted way, it was a question of honor. A form of honor. It existed here, too, in this fair-skinned country. It didn't belong only to medieval bastards from Farawayistan who murdered their daughters for the sake of their own honor."

It should be no surprise, from that pattern of development, that Edwardson (and Winter) is a fan of jazz and blues. In fact, at the end of the Kindle version of this book, there is a more interesting than usual interview with the author, who makes a succinct analogy between the "three chords" that form the foundation of blues songs and the "three chords" from which crime novels develop.
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