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Fiction

The Black Path by Åsa Larsson

The Black PathI want to say sorry that I haven’t been active in commenting nor writing a review. There have been too much going on at work and I am exhausted just trying to put thoughts to paper on a long design document.

I finished reading The Black Path on the 28 February and didn’t feel up to writing a review. I never read a book and not review it, so whatever it takes, I am glad this review is published because the book deserves a spot for being so wonderful.

I picked up The Black Path because it stood out when I was looking at the library shelf for a crime novel to read. I wasn’t sure the order of this book in the series not until I am writing this review that I found out that it is the third in the series. Rebecka Martinsson, the tax lawyer, moved out of Stockholm and came home to Kiruna to recover from her trauma after killing three men in the previous book (ok I don’t want to know why because there is a high possibility I want to read the book and find out myself). Rebecka is also trying to recover from lovesick….

A heart that is in love is an indomitable thing. You can hide your feelings, but, inside, your heart takes over. Your head changes jobs, stops reasoning or making sensible decisions, and starts painting pictures: pathetic, romantic, sentimental, pornographic. The whole damn thing. – page 120 Rebecka

The only book I read from the same author is Until Thy Wrath Be Past, I like it just as much.

I must say this book caught me by surprise because I haven’t expected a crime thriller to be this literary mature, well developed characters and introspective account of the many interesting characters in it. A crime is committed. Every time a new lead is revealed, an elaborate back story gives us reader a clue about what happens to the characters in the past. I thought this technique was rather refreshing.

A wealthy businesswoman has been found murdered in an “Ark”. As the cover of book shows, an ark is a fishing cabin that floats on a frozen lake. The woman was electrocuted and stabbed, but without any sign of sexual assault. Rebecka is asked to help out with the investigation. While Rebecka is recovering from her trauma, she threw herself completely at her work, working alongside police detectives Anna-Maria Mella and Sven-Erik Stalnacke, dropping a hint or two to the detectives on what and where to look.

We soon found out the woman’s name is Inna Wattrang, with her brother Didi Wattrang, they both worked for Mauri Kallis. Because of the back story, I feel as if the murdered victim came alive in subsequent pages, something of a rarity in crime novels. Didi is a decadent, high society scum who feeds off on the rich and has a drug habit that he couldn’t kick. Didi knew Mauri when there were both in college. Mauri being the less confident than the likeable, socially apt Wattrang, Mauri feeds off the Wattrangs popularity to lure clients to invest money in their company, one of which involves a mining business in Uganda.

To mine in such war-torn and political unstable place requires significant political influence. One can’t mine without putting in some form of “investment”; building of infrastructure, promise of monetary support and taking the sides of those in power. Will it be the mercenaries or the government? It depends who is in charge and whose power is waning. You get the picture.

There is also an interesting character called Ester, which seems disjointed to the murder plot but Larsson has decided to write in first person narration and I felt like I was in Ester’s head. I like that the book addressed the bigger international and moral issues of exploiting earthly treasures from Africa. It is an issue that I care about and feel revolt in wondering about the many lives that may have been sacrificed just to satisfy the world’s materialistic greed. If you watched the movie “Blood Diamond“, played by Leonardo Da Vinci, you will know what I am talking about.

If there is one flaw, (the flaw that I couldn’t overlook) was that the book finished up too quickly with action thriller sequence, which doesn’t really matter to me if it is not there. But what irked me the most was that there didn’t seem to be a concrete conclusion about what happens to the main character and a line or two were sort of obscure for me to suss out what is the relationship between Mauri and Ester actually? (Appreciate if someone could tell me).

Having said that, this book ticks many boxes for me: Poetic prose, mystical characters, characters that I feel strongly for (not necessarily pleasant, some utter disgust but strong feeling nonetheless), well thought plots and investigations, moral reflection, infuse with human emotions (empathy, longing, insanity and love). A wonderful entertaining read of characters who strive in a life of decadence and watch them gradually spiral into self-destruction.

First class Scandinavian noir, read Åsa Larsson. I will be coming back for more.

Rating: four stars

Paperback. Publisher: Machlehose Press, imprint of Quercus 2012, originally published 2006; Length: 395 pages; Setting: Sweden and Uganda. Source: Battle Library copy. Finished reading on: 28th February 2013, Thursday.

They read this book too:

Maxine @EurocrimeTHE BLACK PATH is a hard book to summarize because of its richness. The many plots and characters are all so different, yet the author presents them with clarity, insight, and in simple yet affecting prose. By the end of the novel, I was moved and exhausted.

Bernadette@Reactions to Reading: I certainly don’t subscribe to the view that all Scandinavian crime fiction is bleak but this is one title that does fit that category. Even the usually optimistic and upbeat Anna-Maria Mella has her share of gloomy moments in this book and I have to say it was nice to be able to walk out into the bright Australian summer sunshine after finishing. However, don’t be turned off by the dark nature of this superbly translated tale because it contains some of the finest characters you’ll read: you probably won’t like them all but I doubt you’ll forget any of them in a hurry.

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

Discussion

5 thoughts on “The Black Path by Åsa Larsson

  1. Great to hear from you JoV 🙂 I’ve not read this but its sounds really interesting.

    Posted by jessicabookworm | March 13, 2013, 4:08 pm
    • Hey Jessica,
      Asa Larsson writes great crime novels. She has no relation to Stieg Larsson but definitely a force to reckon! I hope you get a chance to read her book.

      Posted by JoV | March 13, 2013, 4:14 pm
      • I must admit the only Scandinavian literature I have read so far is Stieg Larsson’s trilogy but I am interested in reading more. I currently have Evil Water by Inger Wolf on my kindle which I am really looking forward too.

        Posted by jessicabookworm | March 13, 2013, 4:18 pm
        • Jessica,
          I haven’t heard of Inger Wolf. I am interested to read Camilia Lackberg (Swedish) and Arnaldur Indriðason (Icelandic) crime novels. Andrea camilleri series of crime novels are just as good and then there are loads of cosy set in South East Asia that I want to plough through! But the Swedish literature is not all crime though. I really like Per Petterson’s books. Thanks for commenting Jessica, always great to hear from you. 🙂

          Posted by JoV | March 13, 2013, 4:24 pm

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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