I know what you are thinking : that this is about Stieg Larsson and his trilogy about Lisbeth Salander , The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
Actually , it’s not.
Much as I enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s novels , this post is about Asa Larsson , no relation to Steig .I must have read upwards of eighty to a hundred Scandinavian mysteries , but Asa Larsson’s are probably the best I’ve come across. She has so far written five novels , at least four of which have been translated into English , and I’ve so far read and enjoyed two of them , The Black Path and Until Thy Wrath Be Past, her third and fourth books respectively. Since I get almost all of my reading material from libraries and since I did not know how absorbing these books were, I read them out of order.If you can, try and read them in sequence , since they are the continuing adventures of the public prosecutor,Rebecka Martinsson. The first in the series is Sunstorm ( 2006) and it was followed by The Blood Spilt.
When The Black Path begins , a dead woman is found in an ark , an ice-fishing shack , on a frozen lake. Her clothing is incongruous because , in the middle of winter, she is dressed in workout clothes over lacy underthings , and she appears to have been tortured to death. Inspector Anna-Maria Mella , called to the murder scene with her partner Sven Eric Stalnacke , fortuitously finds out the identity of the dead woman , an important player in a prominent financial company with mining interests .She knows she will need the help of a tax lawyer and luckily for her , she is able to call upon Rebecka Martinsson.
Rebecka is a tax lawyer from Stockholm who has moved to Kiruna to become a public prosecutor . In one of the earlier novels , which I haven’t yet read, she was badly injured and emotionally scarred. She jumps at the chance to get back into action and put the past behind her. Together, Rebecka and Anna Maria begin to follow the clues and unravel the mystery , all of which lead to Kallis Mining and its secretive founder , Mauri Kallis. As the complex story unfolds , layer upon layer of mystery is peeled away and there is murder after murder culminating in an action packed climax.
Like its predecessor , Until by Wrath Be Past has a memorable beginning narrated by the spirit of the murder victim, Wilma Persson . She and her boyfriend, Simon Kyro, have cut a hole in the ice on a lake and are diving to investigate a wrecked airplane , when they are murdered. Someone closes the opening in the ice ,waits until they drown , then dumps the body in a distant river so as to confuse investigators and make it appear that her death was an accident.However , the dead girl appears to Rebecka in a dream and the thoroughness of the medical examiner , Lars Pohjanen , confirms that this is murder and not an accident. As Anne – Marie Mella and Rebecka Martinsson delve further into the case , every twist and turn seems to lead to the Krekulas ,as evil a family of villains as you could come across. We know early on that they are the murderers but it is only slowly that we come to understand which one of them is the arch villain and why the murders were committed. There will be more deaths before justice is served in a shattering climax that has Rebecka fighting for her life.
What I like about these novels is the strong characterization and the sense of place that Larsson evokes. Like her heroine , Rebecka , Asa Larsson was a tax lawyer before she turned to writing and , once again like Rebecka , she was brought up in Kiruna , one of the northernmost cities in Sweden. She does a masterful job of painting a picture of life in those latitudes… the bleakness and the beauty of winter , the hardy townspeople and the hard, often lonely, lives they lead. Rebecka Martinsson is a compelling character, smart , brave , driven , as she throws herself into the case to forget the horrors of the past. I also like the policewoman Anne -Marie Mella , similarly driven , impulsive and stressed as she tries to juggle her work life and her family’s needs. But theireare other characters who command our attention : Isak Kekula , his wife Keertu and his sons Hjalmar and Tore ,the dog handler Krister Ericksson , Rebecka’s elderly neighbor Sivving Fjallborg and a number of others , all expertly drawn.Frequent use is made of flasbacks to tell us the backstory of the characters as past and present are masterfully interwoven to great effect. I was not too crazy at first of having the spirit of the murder victim involved in the telling of the story but I got used to it .
Too many nysteries , not just Scandinavian, feature serial killers, and a detective hero who is a) divorced b) depressed c) an alcoholic or d) all three. Asa Larsson’s novels are different in that the murders are committed for good old-fashioned reasons (LOL) like greed and fear and the protagonist Rebecka Martinsson is eminently likable. We genuinely like Rebecka with her love for dogs , her attraction to her ex-boss and her get togethers with her elderly neighbor Sivving . She is the sort of character that you would love to have for a neighbor and I’m eager to know what will happen next in her life . Towards the end of Until thy wrath be Past , there are hints of a new romantic interest in her life . I’m waiting to see how that works out .