I am a big fan of Nordic/Scandi Noir, both in movies (The Killing, The Bridge) and in the written word. There is a certain style in the crime writing; very descriptive very character driven with a plot line always developed in an articulate and thoughtful way. I was therefore very excited when "The Crow Girl" recently reduced to £5 (kindle) became available to UK readers. I expected the same attention to detail and exciting storytelling that I have become used to in the writings of Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo, and more recently Yrsa Sigurdardottir
It is always a good thing when the first few pages immediately hold and retain the reader's attention.....a room is being prepared, insulated and sound proofed to create what we can only presume is a prison, and very soon a young boy is held captive, doped and incarcerated. A body is discovered in the centre of Stockholm and DS Janette Kihlberg is tasked with finding the perpetrator of some gruesomely mummified remains. To help understand the mind of a killer she seeks out and requests help from psychotherapist Sofia Zetterlund. Jeanette is feeling the growing pressure, male prejudice at work and in addition trying to cope with a disintegrating home life with her partner Ake and son Johan. As the body count rises a conspiracy is discovered stretching back many years, involving sexual abuse and paedophilia, and implicating respected pillars of the community.
At 786 pages long this is a story that needs perseverance. At first I became engrossed with the stylish writing depicting acts of depravity and with characters that had multiple personalities and deep rooted personal problems. There are some big issues to think about here most prominent the idea of dissociative identity disorder where a person is characterized by the presence of two or more distinct or split identities or personality states that continually have power over the person's behaviour. I found myself having a lot of sympathy for DS Kihlberg balancing an increasing complicated workload and an equally confusing personal life. Decisions that she takes and a personal discovery that she makes will have far reaching consequences for the present and into the future.
The real problem with The Crow Girl is the page count. I really enjoyed the story at first but the depressing subject matter became overwhelming in the later stages. My understanding is that this was originally 3 separate books on first release in Sweden, and would have benefited greatly from some tight proof reading/editing, before UK release, leading to a single combined volume of around 500 pages. Having made clear my reservations I still believe this is essential reading for lovers of Nordic crime but be prepared to be shocked and possibly repulsed at the sensitive storyline unfolding before you.