I am on an Åsa Larsson reading spree. Her novels, described by others, are said to be more traditional crime thrillers than police procedurals and how she structures her story, told in third person narrative, works very well for me. Some of the themes in her novels have been interesting too. The novels are all set in northern Sweden, 150Km north of the Arctic Circle. So far these are entertaining reads with two strong female protagonists.
Having enjoyed THE BLOOD SPLIT so much, I thought I would dive right in to THE BLACK PATH, the third book in the series. Rebecka Martinsson has quit her job as a junior attorney at Sweden’s top business law firm, Meijer & Ditzinger in Stockholm and has taken up residence in her childhood home in the mining community of Kiruna after so many years in exile. After the devastating events in the last book that put her in mortal danger, she does a stint in a psychiatric clinic and is prescribed anti-depressants. Rebecka, over time, in the book it says 18 months, recovers and takes up residence in her grandmother’s home in Kurravaara.
The weather is still blistering cold and the wind is up. A fisherman finds a woman’s body in an ark a few miles outside the tourist station of Abisko. Detectives Anna-Maria Mella and Sven-Erik Stålnacke investigate the case with the help of the newly appointed prosecutor, Rebecka Martinsson. She was snapped up by the chief prosecutor in Kiruna because he thinks she would be good at the job (plus she’s a workaholic) and she is.
The victim is a woman in her forties who held a important position in Kallis Mining, a company that is a major player in the mining industry. She was an information specialist. There are very few clues in Inna Wattrang’s death. The victim’s brother, Diddi Wattrang arrives to identify her body along with their boss, Mauri Kallis, an overseas investor who heads Kallis Mining. He brings along his security team. The two men are upset at Inna Wattrang’s death but manage to remain guarded and tight lipped to the police. Neither of them claim to know Inna Wattrang’s whereabouts before her death and offer the police very little in helping them track down this opportunistic killer.
The story then shifts to give us background info on Inna Wattrang, Mauri Kallis and Diddi Wattrang and a few others. The relationship between the three bears special scrutiny as their business/personal relationships have many highs and lows and go way back. I felt that the bulk of the prose at this point in the story was expository. I understand that the writer wanted to give us a full and complete picture of her characters but some of it was overkill and significantly slowed down the pacing of the story.
The plot is rather complex and didn’t really come together until the last fourth of the book. Between investigating the crime and unearthing a motive seemed to have a pace that felt uneven to me. But the story is gripping and features financial and political corruption, insider trading, the dangers of the mining industry and foreign businessman funneling money to fund a military coup in exchange for protecting their mining interests in Uganda.
The motive for the murders of Inna Wattrang and a journalist (who got wind of a story and started asking questions to his detriment), doesn’t show itself until you get close to the end of the novel. The big reveal isn’t so much who the killer is but why they were killed. I just want to say that my suspicions proved to be correct thereby making the denouement not all that surprising. The turn of events that led up to the crime felt somewhat forced to me, too.
At times the story is very gripping and at other times – not very (like I stated already). I can’t say that this entry in the series was as captivating as the first book in the series, SUN STORM, a book I couldn’t even put down. The author strengths lie within her characters though. She has made them as real as one can in fiction. Both Rebecka and Anna-Maria Mella are strongly built characters. Anna-Maria’s musings on her family is often interesting. She’s happily married with four children with a husband who’s a good father but a slacker on helping her with the household chores but in the end she reaffirms her decision to have a family and a career and tries to balance both as best she can.
Then there’s the series star, Rebecka Martinsson, who I find fascinating and a relatable character. She is Anna-Maria’s complete opposite. Rebecka’s fears are that she doesn’t want to be alone and she’s hung up on her boss. *g* I find that last development quite interesting. For once the ending of THE BLACK PATH took a turn that I didn’t see coming making the ending quite suspenseful. So in the end, I give THE BLACK PATH a B. The novel entertained me but not as much as the two earlier novels in the series. I think I will go ahead and read UNTIL THY WRATH BE PAST and then I will be caught up.
Source: I bought this book after reading Sun Storm, the first book in the series