Sun Storm, by Asa Larsson
Sun Storm (published as The Savage Altar in the UK, see also our review of The Black Path), Asa (Åsa) Larsson's first book (published in English in 2006), starts with a bang: "When Viktor Strandgård dies it is not, in fact, for the first time." Asa Larsson, born in 1966 in Uppsala, Sweden, is an author, translator, and tax lawyer (now a full time writer).
Viktor Strandgard, a preacher of a church in northern Sweden called The Source of All Strength, is found in the chapel viciously slaughtered. His sister Sanna discovers the body and is emotionally at a breaking point. She contacts her friend Rebecka Martinson, a tax attorney in Stockholm, for her help. Rebecca Martinsson is an overworked junior member in a Stockholm law firm, and comes from remote Kiruna, far north in Sweden. Now Rebecca immediately returns to Kiruna, the town she’d left in disgrace years before and the craziness she thought she had escaped. And when Sanna is arrested for the murder, Rebecca feels she has to prove her innocence as well as take care of her two young girls.
In trying to solve the case, Rebecka must relive the darkness she left behind in Kiruna, delve into a sordid conspiracy of deceit, and confront a killer whose motives are dark, wrenching, and impossible to guess. And the closer Rebecka gets to the solution, the more danger she places herself in.
In Sun Storm, Asa Larsson builds suspense gradually but inexorably. Sun Storm has wonderful characters and a plot that twists and turns. The end is maybe a little over-written, but all in all this is a stunning debut and holds great promise for future books. Asa Larson is a very talented writer, and the book is breathtaking.
More reviews of books by Asa Larsson
The Preacher is the second book by Camilla Lackberg that is translated into English. The first was The Ice Princess, a marvelous debut book and an exciting read.
The Preacher starts out very violently, with a little boy finding a naked woman staring at him in a ravine in the small Swedish town of Fjällbacka. Beneath the body, two skeletons of young women who had disappeared more than 2 decades earlier are visible. We follow parts of the earlier story via intriguing flashbacks to 1979.
It turns out that all three had been tortured in similar ways before dying of strangulation. Thus everything points to the same killer.
This happens during the warm summer months in the little city of Fjällbacka, with the city full of tourists. Detective Patrik Hedström of the local police heads the investigation. The evidence seems to point in the direction of a preacher, Ephraim Hult, who was also under investigation when two young women disappeared a quarter of a century earlier. And it soon turns out the Hult has lots of skeletons in his closets.
At the same time his heavily pregnant girlfriend Erica deals with invasions of visitors seeking to stay in their house, but still manages to help her husband with the investigation. Together the gradually uncover the truth hidden beneath layers of lies.
The Preacher is excellently written and wonderfully translated by Steven T. Murray. As well, it is beautifully plotted and has well developed characters. I read this book much faster than I should have, as I just wanted to get to the end. And a great end it was! A wonderful read and a great follow up to The Ice Princess.
(See also our review of The Stonecutter.)
Blackwater, by Kerstin Ekman
Swedish Kerstin Ekman is a very talented writer and, along with fellow Scandinavians Karin Alvtegen and Karin Fossum, a master of psychological thrillers. In her first novel published in the United States, Ekman, creates an aura of fear and malaise as she depicts a suspicious, isolated community shocked by a crime but unwilling to give up one of its own. Blackwater was first published in Sweden in 1993, and has won the Swedish Crime Academy's Award for Best Crime Novel, the August Prize and the Nordic Council's Literary Prize.
Blackwater is a very densely plotted psychological thriller set in northern Sweden, near the Norwegian border. Annie Raft and her six-year-old daughter arrive in the remote Swedish village of Blackwater one midsummer night to meet Annie's boyfriend, who never shows up. In the morning, they stumble across two campers who have been stabbed to death in their tent. There are many suspects, but even so the murder case has never been solved.
Now, eighteen years later Annie again sees the mysterious young man she saw running through the woods that night. He is her daughter's lover. Annie identifies him and by doing this sets in motion a series of events that will have tragic and shocking consequences.
Blackwater is a dark who-done-it that gives a sense of gloom and is at times difficult to read, with a large number of characters and ominous events. The translation is excellent. The story is told from several different viewpoints, and masterfully wowen together by Ekman.
To my mind, this is a brilliant novel, complex and compelling, excellently written and intricately plotted and full of suspense. I like Blackwater a lot and strongly recommend it.
Praise for Blackwater:
“Blackwater is rich in psychological nuance and character. Highly recommended.” - Library Journal
In Inger Frimansson’s sequel to the award-winning Good Night My Darling, we again meet the tormented, somewhat charming and definitely twisted Justine Dalvik. Justine is still carrying on her internal fight with her demons, real and imagined. And again Inger Frimansson delivers a powerful, nerve wrecking and suspenseful psychological thriller masterpiece.
The Shadow in the Water was awarded with the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award (Svenska Deckarakademins pris) 2005 for Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year, just as Good Night My Darling was awarded with the same prize in 1998.
In Scandinavia several female crime writers currently write fabulous psychological thrillers, and to my mind Karin Fossum, Karin Alvtegen and Inger Frimansson are the top writers on this list. If anything, The Shadow in the Water proves why she deserves a prominent place on the list. Her books leave a lasting impression on readers.
Six years have passed since the events in Good Night My Darling. Tor Assarson still misses his wife. She disappeared after meeting the frightening Justine Dalvik. Tor, and her best friend, Jill Kylén, are trying to move on with their lives. Both harbor lingering, foggy suspicions about Justine. Together they travel on vacation to Lofoten in Norway. And start, inevitably, to dig into the past.
Also lingering in the shadows is Micke, a young man who struggle to find a place for himself in the world. Micke is the son of Nathan and Nettan. Nathan left Micke’s mother years ago. The last time Micke saw Nathan he was preparing to leave for a trip to Africa. Justine had traveled to Africa with Nathan, her lover, but Nathan never returned from the trip. Justine states that he was lost in the jungle and although many search parties had been sent out, he was never found. Micke never saw his father again and has been haunted by the fact that someone must know something of what happened to his father.
Also out there, still searching, is a stubborn policeman with violent tendencies that is increasingly becoming interested in several of the already closed investigations.
Justine, in the mean time, has moved together with a man, Hans Petter Bergman, who loves her and has the utmost respect for her. But now she is again being haunted by the deaths. The police are sniffing around again, as well as the relatives of one of the women, the same woman Justine is convinced she can see just under the surface of a lake in her nightmares - The Shadow in the Water. And as Justine more and more feels the pressure mounting, the action intensifies.
The Shadow in the Water is not a book for the faint in heart. In spare but dense prose, Frimansson skillfully weaves a frightening tale with guilt and innocence, suspicions and doubts, dreams and realities, and life and death as ingredients. It is a great tale, and strongly recommended.