The Crow Girl
Erik Axl Sund
This massive, and I really mean MASSIVE, tome was quite challenging to even begin. A book this long, with such small font can seem overwhelming – however a quick check of the cover let me know that this was in fact three books (in the original Swedish) so I was really looking at a collection of works – not just one! It made me feel a little better that I was reading three at once and this knowledge helped me tackle it in a slightly more mentally prepared manner.
This novel, (or novels ??) is heavy – it has all the trademarks of the Scandi-thriller genre but then it adds teeth, or should that be fangs, or something more wicked and scary. It’s an immense absorbing read, but left me at times exhausted and confused – which I think is the plan. It travels the knife’s edge of mental illness and insanity and somehow manages to make the reader feel a little like they’re going insane too.
This book took me nearly three weeks to read – which is something of a record for the longest time I’ve ever spend reading a novel – and at times I was unsure if I wanted to pick it up – not because I was slow to turn the pages, but because I simply didn’t know where it would take me next and if I was in a space to be hauled from one head to another, one time frame to another, from fantasy to reality. It took immense concentration to try and figure out the complex plot and to try and get to the bottom of the ‘whodunnit’ question(s).
I’m still not sure if I’d say I enjoyed it. I was pleased to finish it and satisfied with the ending – which was, for most of my reading, somewhat unexpected. There were times when the ‘stitching together’ of the three novels was a little apparent and I felt like I could tell where one had finished and the next begun although there as no clear indication as to this in the copy I was reading.
The fact this book has two authors, to me, worked beautifully in the novel given the disjointed and psychologically troubling nature of the characters. I wonder if they could write cohesively, but that seems a moot point as the novel is so well suited to this jilted and awkward (at times) style. The dual nature of the authors is reflected in the two key characters, the police office and the psychologist – the exploitation and exploration of their identities through relationships with others and each other is fascinating to dissect and as a result deeply complex and compelling character studies lie at the heart of this novel.
This is a book for lovers of psychological thrillers, those who found Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the likes ‘too light’ or ‘too commercial’. I’m pretty sure I’m recommending it – but for those with a big appetite for a hefty novel and those who love to feel a little crazy, and a lot bewildered!
From the publishers website:
It starts with just one body – tortured, mummified and then discarded.
Its discovery reveals a nightmare world of hidden lives. Of lost identities, secret rituals and brutal exploitation, where nobody can be trusted.
This is the darkest, most complex case the police have ever seen.
About the author:
Erik Axl Sund is the pseudonym for 2 authors who have been friends and collaborators for years: Jerker Erikson and Håkan Axlander Sundquist.
Håkan was a sound engineer, musician and artist, while Jerker was a music producer and worked as a librarian in a prison. Both live in Sweden where they are now full-time writers, and also run an art gallery together.
Originally written as a trilogy before being re-worked for the English language markets The Crow Girl is their first book. The complete trilogy received the ‘Special Award’ from the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers in 2012, with the academy highlighting the trilogy’s ‘hypnotically captivating psychoanalysis in crime fiction form.’