Author: Erik Axl Sund (translated to English by Neil Smith) Genre: Crime/Psychological Thriller Pages: 784 Publication: June 14, 2016 ISBN: 9780099583684 (buy here)
Crime-fiction has always been my cup of (coffee) and because of reading a little too many, there were books that didn’t meet that shock-level-of-greatness anymore. Maybe because of how stories are getting more similar these days. But reading “The Crow Girl” reminded me of why I love this genre to the core. Because for crime-fic readers the grittier, the better.
“The Crow Girl”, a Nordic noir, is written by the writing Swedish duo Erik Axl Sund (a combination of their names: Jerker Eriksson and Hakan Alexander Sundquist). It was originally a trilogy when they published it in Sweden but I guess it’s such a genius idea that they combined the parts and made a 784-pages long novel to experience one sensational story because getting three books is tricky… The UK/US edition was translated by Neil Smith.
“It begins in a Stockholm city park where the abused body of a young boy is discovered. Detective Superintendent Jeanette Kihlberg heads the investigation, battling an apathetic prosecutor and a bureaucratic police force unwilling to devote resources to solving the murder of an immigrant child. But with the discovery of the mutilated corpses of two more children, it becomes clear that a serial killer is at large.
Superintendent Kihlberg turns to therapist Sofia Zetterlund for her expertise in the psychopathology of those who kill, and the lives of the two women become quickly intertwined—professionally and personally. As they draw closer to each other and to the truth about the killings, what surfaces is the undeniable fact that these murders are only the most obvious evidence of an insidious evil woven deep into Swedish society.”
The plot revolves around three women: Jeanette, who juggles her marital problems and rather difficult job (because she’s a woman in workplace surrounded by men) but still tries to be her best…
“If she’s right, she’s a good police officer who’s done her job… If she’s wrong, she’ll be criticized and her competence will be called into question. The idea that she made a mistake because she’s a woman.”
Sofia, a therapist who battles her own demons and chooses to live a different life… Or does she, really? Her character is very complex that you don’t really know what to expect.
And Victoria, as she tells her story of abuse from her childhood, who may or may not be the center of it all… Why is her past so important to what is happening in the present?
As the story unfolds, there’s a haunting question: who’s The Crow Girl?
First of all, it’s a long book. I know, a big book is daunting but “The Crow Girl” is so well written that each page gets better and better and the story becomes more enthralling. Before you know it, you’re on the last page and you don’t know what to do after that…
So fair warning, get ready for a ride.
Reading it takes you to the inner diabolic nature of humans. There was a scene where I just had to put it down because the emotional turmoil was too heavy to carry. The themes of abuse, sex crimes, pedophilia, torture and mutilation are tackled in a very intense writing. Though, unsettling, I applaud the authors for making it as layers to peel off one after the other. I also regard how they discussed mental illness and the therapy sessions without overstating it. Specially talking about the “crow girl” — what is she really? And the other personalities that appeared. It’s a discussion that’s happening in my mind while reading it.
The whole plot has a way of telling you that things are going to get really confusing and it actually works well with the overall theme of the book. We have past-present narrations that will baffle you but at the same time intrigue you and eventually your thoughts are all about it.
I’m not saying the book is perfect. The set of characters are too hard to remember because there’s a lot of them! I didn’t connect well with the budding relationship between the MCs but I guess that’s the purpose? Maybe it’s a way of saying that some things really don’t connect? But despite its flaws, I still find it riveting due to its imagery and raw representation of how sinister everything really is.
It’s a very dark book but at it also sheds light to what lies behind the curtains. It’s so riveting that every page wants you to be more engaged. Erik Axl Sund made a masterpiece. I’ll buy anything they publish.
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