Friday, July 19, 2019

Review of The Blood Spilt by Asa Larsson (2008, Penguin; 2004 Swedish)

Rebecka Martinsson is still traumatised from her last visit home to Kiruna in northern Sweden when she ended up fighting for her life. Her law firm has retained her services, but has her on light duties. When the firm is approached by a set of churches in Kiruna for legal services one of the partners thinks its opportunity to aid Rebecka’s rehabilitation. She journeys home with her boss, planning to stay on for a few days after the Church business is conducted. When they arrive, however, they find the Church is reeling from the murder of one of their women priests. A staunch feminist, Mildred Nilsson had managed to polarise the community with her self-defence classes for women, an all-female Bible study group, and establishing a church fund to protect the local she-wolf from being hunted. The local police are not short of potential suspects, but they are short of any evidence. Rebecka unearths a fresh lead, handing it over to the police and hoping it’s the end of her involvement in the case.

The Blood Spilt is the second book in the Rebecka Martinsson series set in northern Sweden. Martinsson is a corporate lawyer with mental health issues after an encounter that left three people dead. In this outing, she travels back home two years after the traumatic events of the first book, still licking her wounds and trying to get her life back on track. She stays in an off-the-track bed-and-breakfast, visits her grandmother’s house, and makes friends with a teenage boy who has a mental disability. She has a bit of work to do for a local church, but that is quickly concluded. The local community is reeling from the death of female priest and Rebecka discovers some evidence and passes it on to the police, but as far as she’s concerned that’s the end of her involvement. However, she has an unfortunate habit of crossing paths with murderers. There’s a good sense of place, the characterisation well drawn, and portrayal of the complex web of connections and local rivalries is nicely done. The investigation into the death of the priest is the main thread of the story, but there are a couple of subplots relating to Rebecka’s personal life and the journey of a she-wolf. While nicely written, the latter added little to the story and was a bit of a distraction. Martinsson builds the tension well and the final section of the book has a couple of chilling climaxes, and a couple of the events made me quite annoyed (but not in negative way) in terms of how they turned out (they just had a powerful affective punch). Overall, an engaging read that left me worrying about what trauma Larsson will put Rebecka through in future books.

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