If you favor mysteries and thrillers full of surprises, you’ll love The Crow Girl by the Swedish writing team that publishes under the name Erik Axl Sund. No matter how shrewd and analytical you might be, I predict that you won’t figure out who’s who and what’s what until at least close to the end of this staggeringly complex novel. And, unless you read at a blistering pace, this is not a book you’ll finish at one sitting: the hardcover edition runs to 784 pages.
To say that I enjoyed this novel would be misleading. At times it’s gruesome beyond belief. I would find anything written about pedophiles to be appalling. And I found the constant use of long Swedish place names distracting. Yet the writing is devilishly clever. It’s difficult to put the book down. In fact, I found it impossible.
The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund (2016) 770 pages ★★★★☆
A story about pedophiles, serial murder, and unhappy marriages
It’s difficult to exaggerate just how complicated this story is. It’s a tale about pedophiles, serial murder, unhappy marriages, dissociative identity disorder, a fundamentalist Christian sect in Lapland, the Great Famine in the Ukraine, the Holocaust, and Swedish police procedures. Got that? No? I understand. I could never have imagined a single story linking all these themes.
The Crow Girl opens like so many other crime stories. The mutilated body of a young immigrant boy is discovered, and Detective Superintendent Jeanette Kihlberg from the Stockholm police is assigned to the case. But neither the police chief nor the prosecutor who both have authority over her will provide her with the necessary resources. Then the bodies of two other young boys are found nearby. Evidence links the three murders, so Kihlberg is faced with tracking down a serial killer, on her own time when necessary.
To gain insight into the psychopathology of serial murderers, the Superintendent enlists the help of a brilliant psychologist, Sofia Zetterlund. It soon develops that both women are stuck in unhappy marriages, so you’ll quickly begin to wonder where that will lead. And that’s only the first of a long list of complications and surprises that come to light again and again in this masterful tale.
The Crow Girl is the first book in the Victoria Bergman trilogy. The remaining two books in the trilogy are not yet available in English translation, nor is the authors’ fourth novel.
For additional reading
You’ll find this book on The 40 best books of the decade from 2010-19.
For a guide to the best Scandinavian mysteries and thrillers, check out The best Nordic noir series from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland.
You might also enjoy my posts:
- Top 10 mystery and thriller series;
- 20 excellent standalone mysteries and thrillers; and
- 20 outstanding detective series from around the world.
For an abundance of great mystery stories, go to Top 20 suspenseful detective novels (plus 200 more). And if you’re looking for exciting historical novels, check out Top 10 historical mysteries and thrillers reviewed here (plus 100 others).
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