17-year-old Wilma Persson, together with her boyfriend, is diving beneath the ice of Lake Vittangijärvi, looking for the wreck of a Nazi transport airplane that crashed there during the War, a plane that had been carrying supplies for the Wehrmacht in 1943. Soon a horrifying event happens that plastered vividly on my mind when both the youngsters are murdered. They dived in through a hole they have sawed in the ice, and someone has closed the hole with a green door and stood on it, thus preventing them from surfacing.
Wilma’s body is discovered in a river Torne some months later, though police soon learn she did not die where she was found through the water sample that contains in her lung and the river. Rebecka Martinsson, District Prosecutor in a troubled long distant relationship, is assigned to the investigation working together with a Police Inspector, Anna-Maria Mella, recovering from a traumatic past while on duty. The two begin to learn that there are decades-old secrets that someone will do anything to protect.
It is easy to develop a strong sense of whodunit in this murder case yet the story telling style is not conventional. It is all refreshing to me because this is perhaps, if I could recall, the first dark crime investigation that features women characters and written by a female author. It is one that I most welcomed, much better than stereotyping lady detective such as Precious Ramotswe in No. 1 First Lady detective agency or Elizabeth Peter’s …. in frivolous cosy mysteries. It consists of female characters who has to juggle career with motherhood, harbouring a perpetual worries about their children in a high risk work or a fledging relationship.
The layers of secrets are peeled as we pried into the lives of the Krekula family. An old dominant father (Isak), embittered and once beautiful seductress mother and two malicious adult sons (Tore and Hjalmar), for whom I felt more sympathetically for one of them, perhaps of how strongly I felt about children who are not given the opportunities to cultivate their talent, instead were suppressed (and one of sons was brilliant in maths!). There are many scenes of flashbacks that dated back to their childhood shed lights on why the sons acted the way they did and I questioned if the age old family adage “Family should stick together” makes any sense when it comes to a family who lives on distorted value of evil.
The other thing that surprises me a little was the appearance of the victim’s ghost. Reading the ghostly account was a little unsettling at the beginning but soon I got used to it and as it brought insights into the pasts and depicts more convincingly how she feels about things. I also believe that the wronged or murder victim has a way of communicating and led the investigator to the crux of evidence and pin down the murderer eventually, in real life.
It’s just that I sometimes get a feeling. Sometime I know the dog is about to find something even before it starts barking. Or that we aren’t going to find anything, as on this occasion. It’s when I feel.. how shall I put it? .. maybe open is the right word. A human being is something special. There’s more to us than we realise. And Mother Earth is more than just a lump of dead rock. She’s also alive. If there’s a dead body lying somewhere in the countryside, you can feel it when you reach the place. The trees know, and vibrate with the knowledge. The stones know. The grass. They create an atmosphere. – Eriksson, the dog-handler, page 49
The thing I like about Scandinavian crime and thrillers is the fact that the authors spend a little more time and effort developing the characters, compared to the clinical execution of plot and investigation route that most crime writers took. As you may know, I’m not a professional crime fiction reader and my view in this matter remains as it is, my opinion, but I can tell you when I make a choice to pick up a crime fiction, it is highly likely that I’ll pick up one that is Scandinavian.
Until Thy Wrath be Past – with reference to the pain of human existence in the biblical Book of Job, driven to a large extent by the why rather than the who or the how of many traditional crime novels. I hate to admit that what draws me to the book was the last name of the author that reminds me of another famous one but I love to be proven wrong that Åsa Larsson has her own sense of style and juggles the balance of both horrifying crime and human drama beautifully with a gentle final reminder that one can only be free when we let go of our anger and resentment. Worth a read.
P/S: Can anyone tell me what happens to the other brother Tore during the snow chase at the end? I seems to lost the plot there.
Hardback. Length: 326 pages. Publisher: Maclehose Press. Source: Reading Battle Library. Setting: Contemporary North Sweden, Kiruna. Finished reading at: 13th October 2011. Translated by Laurie Thompson.
Bernadette@Reactions to Reading: Until Thy Wrath be Past has a similar sensibility to the best fairy tales: offering a compellingly dark story with just a hint of the supernatural and containing within it a gentle parable for those who need to learn about the dangers of living a life fuelled by anger and resentment. First class reading.
Book Blog Scandinavian Books: While I did not particularly like the literary device Asa Larsson uses in this book – letting the dead Wilma talk from the grave, so to speak – I really liked the book, it is perhaps the best Åsa Larsson has written so far!
Reader Dad: In the ever-growing pantheon of Scandinavian crime fiction, it is sometimes difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. Based on Until Thy Wrath Be Past, Åsa Larsson is definitely worth your time and attention. I suspect that as the series grows, so will this writer’s reputation until it’s Åsa that people think about when they hear the name Larsson. This is an absolute must-read for fans of the Wallander novels in particular and anyone who enjoys Scandi-crime in general.
Kim@Reading Matters: Until Thy Wrath Be Past is a terrific thriller, and while it’s part of the “Rebecka Martinsson crime series” of which there are three previous novels, it can be safely read as a standalone. I found it to be a heart-hammering read — the first chapter is one of the most exciting first chapters I’ve read in a long while — with a multi-layered plot and a satisfying, if slightly Hollywoodish, ending.
About the Writer:
Åsa Larsson (born 28 June 1966 in Uppsala) is a Swedish crime-writer. Although born in Uppsala, she was raised in Kiruna in the far north. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Larsson was a tax lawyer, a profession she shares with the heroine of her novels, Rebecka Martinsson. Her first novel, The Savage Altar, was awarded the Swedish Crime Writers’ Association prize for best debut. its sequel, The Blood Spilt, was chosen as Best Swedish Crime Novel of 2004.