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Åsa Larsson, Det blod som spillts (The Blood That Was Shed)

Albert Bonniers förlag,  2004. ISBN: 9100103039

Reviewed by Irene Scobbie in SBR 2004:2

At the end of her first novel, Solstorm (2003, reviewed in SBR 2003:2) Åsa Larsson promised that her heroine Rebecka Martinsson would return, and here she is. She is still suffering from the trauma of having killed, albeit in self-defence, and has been on sick leave for over a year, unable to regain mental equilibrium. When a Stockholm colleague has business in Kiruna, near to where her ordeal took place, she agrees to go with him. Once there she ceases in a way to be the central figure, as the story develops into a kind of collective novel.
Mildred Nilsson, a woman priest, has been brutally murdered three months previously, and the story, using flash-backs, centres round her character, her relationship with her parish, why she was murdered and by whom. A dynamic, charismatic feminist, she has espoused several controversial causes. She formed the “Magdalenas”, a group of hitherto suppressed women now encouraged to stand up for themselves. Her home was a refuge for battered wives on occasion. She also wanted to protect wolves in the region. All this brought her into conflict with conservative husbands, several conservative women, a clergyman opposed to the ordination of women, and the local hunting fraternity. Although married, she also had a relationship with a passionate, jealous woman. There are plenty of murder suspects, and the sympathetic Detective Inspector Mella, very pregnant in Solstorm but now the mother of a robust son, has her work cut out.
Ever since her previous visit to the region Rebecka has existed in an unnatural cocoon of indifference, barely able to remember the awful events she has experienced. Towards the end of this novel she cleans and moves into her grandparents’ abandoned cottage, perhaps the beginning of regained peace of mind. In a build-up to an exciting finish, however, her life is again endangered. This time she screams hysterically, unable to stop. However drastic, perhaps she is psychologically cured?
As in her other novel, Åsa Larsson’s strength lies in her ability to portray nature and the people in this isolated part of Northern Sweden. Here it is mostly September around Torneträsk that is lyrically projected. She has gone one step further, with the introduction of a pack of wolves, their life cycle, their method of attacking elks, etc. The description of “Yellow Legs”, an outcast from the pack surviving on her own, even reminds me of Kerstin Ekman’s Hunden (The Dog). A number of domestic dogs are also described - perhaps too much so for the overall balance of the novel. Second novels are notoriously difficult, but Åsa Larsson has succeeded and given us another good read.

Also by Åsa Larsson

  • Svart stig (The Black Path). Reviewed by Irene Scobbie in SBR 2007:1.
  • Solstorm (Sunstorm). Reviewed by Irene Scobbie in SBR 2003:2.

Other reviews by Irene Scobbie

Other reviews in SBR 2004:2

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