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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Between Summer's Longing
and Winter's End

Leif GW Persson

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To purchase Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End

Title: Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End
Author: Leif GW Persson
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2010)
Length: 551 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End - US
Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End - UK
Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End - Canada
Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End - India
La Nuit du 28 février - France
Zwischen der Sehnsucht des Sommers ... - Deutschland
Tra la nostalgia dell'estate e il gelo dell'inverno - Italia
Entre la promesa del verano y el frío del invierno - España
  • The Story of a Crime
  • Swedish title: Mellan sommarens längtan och vinterns köld
  • Translated by Paul Norlen

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Our Assessment:

B : wends and winds its way -- too slowly, and in too many knots

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent A 1/3/2011 Barry Forshaw
The NY Times Book Rev. . 17/9/2010 Marilyn Stasio
Svenska Dagbladet . 10/9/2002 Jesper Högström

  From the Reviews:
  • "Within a few chapters of Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End, it is clear that as well as being an intricately detailed crime narrative, this is a powerful state-of-the-nation novel -- though, for many, its immense rewards will be purchased at a price. This is not a novel for the casual reader. (...) Underneath the dense layers of corruption and maladroit administration, we are given a rich and sobering picture of the Swedish psyche, which has still not come to terms with the death of a politician -- and of a dream." - Barry Forshaw, The Independent

  • "With dozens of unremarkable characters to account for and mountains of missteps to track, the plot thins out to a point where only die-hard conspiracy theorists could keep faith with it. Persson’s speculative solution to this political mystery shows a dark imagination, but with the complicity of his translator, Paul Norlen, he also makes it seem surprisingly dull." - Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Kan romanen bära upp så mycket anspråksfullhet ? Nej, det kan den inte, trots 574 sidor och en titel som är längre än Transsibiriska järnvägen. Den vill helt enkelt vara för många saker på en gång. Dels en satirisk nyckelroman, som på ett föga subtilt sätt driver med Hans Holmér, Ebbe Carlsson och Göran Skytte. Dels en hårdkokt brottsroman med alla de inskränkningar det innebär för människogestaltningen." - Jesper Högström, Svenska Dagbladet

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End is sub-titled: The Story of a Crime, and that crime is one of the most notorious in Swedish history, the still unresolved Palmemordet -- the 28 February 1986 assassination of then prime minister Olof Palme. The story does lead up to the assassination, but the death at the center of the novel is a different one, the suicide -- or murder -- of a visiting American journalist named John P. Krassner. The novel begins with the young journalist's death -- he falls from the student dormitory apartment he had been living in -- and then fills in the gaps of all the events leading up to that, continuing then to that second death, of the prime minister.
       Two very different state institutions -- the police and the Swedish secret police -- have very different agendas here, and the novel follows a large number of actors from both as they try to variously cover and uncover the tracks leading to Kraussner's death. It turns out the secret police were interested in Kraussner before his death, and while the police who investigate the death pretty quickly write it off, more or less, as a suicide, the case does come to the attention of police superintendent -- and head of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (a sort of Swedish FBI -- while the secret police is more CIA) -- Lars Martin Johansson and he keeps digging around until he has put together many of the pieces.
       Kraussner had sort of tried to contact Johansson -- sending him a letter that Johansson was only meant to get (as he did) after Kraussner's death --, turning to Johansson because he'd been told:

you were an honorable, uncorrupted, and very capable Swedish police officer who doesn't shy away from the truth no matter how frightening it may be.
       The truth here is somewhat frightening, though it's the corruption and dishonorable conduct by many others in the Swedish secret police (and quite a bit of incompetence in the regular police ...) that is truly shocking.
       Kraussner was working on an exposé, a book project titled 'The Spy who went East', and Johansson gets his hands on a copy while visiting the US, where he takes a detour to visit Kraussner's former girlfriend; not surprisingly, it contains some pretty explosive material, mainly concerning the prime minister. Johansson does most of his investigating (and putting together the pieces) by himself, realizing that given what and who this case involves there are few people he can trust.
       As Persson lays out the cases and revisits what happened, the larger picture changes shape: not everyone is exactly who they seem, and actions that seem straightforward often turn out to have had an underlying hidden purpose. With an enormous cast of characters, and with Persson shifting back and forth among them, it's also a fairly messy picture; focusing both on the professional and the personal (including the peculiar sexual predilections of one of the men, and the affair he has with one of the few competent secret police agents, a woman who looks far younger than her age) it is also often a blurry image. Much that seems insignificant at first does prove to play a role, and in a way the presentation is very realistic -- lots of noise, out of which it's often impossible to distinguish what's significant and what can safely be ignored -- but it makes for wearying reading, without quite the usual thriller-satisfactions (simplistic though those may be -- certainly by comparison).
       Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End is a large-scale conspiracy novel, and an indictment of the secret police in particular. The regular police here are, at worst, incompetent; the secret police are often downright evil and dangerous. They create false enemies to keep their funding coming: the Kurds here are the popular enemy-of-choice, and despite inconveniently usually only killing each other are presented as posing a much greater threat (and now targeting a high-ranking politician ...).
       This is the institution Persson mainly attacks here:
     The Swedish secret police, in contrast to its counterparts in both the West and the East, was an organization made up almost exclusively of police officers. The Swedish secret police had no intellectual or academic tradition whatsoever, and it was Berg's firm conviction that this was also its main strength. No upper-class pansies from Oxford or Cambridge who might sell out the whole country to the enemy for a piece of ass at some shabby hotel in a third-world country; no overexcited theoreticians who couldn't think a single original thought without immediately broadcasting it in a seminar with a crowd of their ilk; no philosophical scatterbrains or political brooders. A completely pure organization made up solely of police officers
       With right-wing nationalist fervor popular among the police, the 'purity' of the secret police does, however, prove problematic -- and given how many loathe the prime minister that, too, is a problem.
       When Johansson reads what Kraussner appears to have put together and what then happened to him:
That just doesn't happen, thought Johansson. We're talking about Sweden, for God's sake.
       But like Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc ), and Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström in novels such as Three Seconds, it's popular to see deep-rooted (and dark) corruption at the highest levels of Swedish society, government, and law enforcement, and Persson offers yet another variation on it -- and suggests it may well be what killed Olof Palme.
       Bit by bit Persson tells a decent story, for the most part avoiding the breathless sensationalism and exaggerations that Larsson and Roslund/Hellström constantly revel in, but this is a puzzle presented in far too many pieces, painstakingly put in place. It winds up being fairly long-winded. With no real central character to focus on and sympathize with -- Johansson is the closest thing to a main character, but even he often gets lost in the enormous shuffle here -- and layers of conspiracy going back decades (and involving foreign intelligence services, too), the story can get tiresome. Persson's willingness to show how muddy pictures are in real investigations -- almost no one seems to be truly on top of events all the time -- is admirable, but with his large cast of characters and conspirators it too often gets out of hand.
       Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End ultimately proves a bit too frustrating to enjoy, with too many underdeveloped characters and too many angles to the conspiracies in play, all in a tone that proves to be too monotone.

- M.A.Orthofer, 30 January 2011

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Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End: Reviews: Leif GW Persson: Other books by Leif GW Persson under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swedish author Leif GW Persson was born in 1945.

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© 2011-2021 the complete review

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