I was sent a review copy of Erik Axl Sund’s The Crow Girl upon its paperback release in the UK. I had previously heard about the novel because everyone whose taste in books I trusted was reading, and loving it. I also saw another delegate at Captivating Criminality 4 Conference reading it, and the bookish nosy that I am made me disturb his reading to ask for the book. He was loving it too. So, with all positive recommendations coming my way, I had no doubts that The Crow Girl – with its dark and twisted plot masterfully translated from the original Swedish by Neil Smith – was one of the books for my Summer 2017.
The Crow Girl is a different crime novel, even though it fits perfectly into the Nordic noir tradition that we have come to love. For starters, it is different in size: Goodreads tells me that the hardback editions are more than 700-pages long, and so was my paperback at 768 pages. The reason for this unconventional length is that the English translation from the original Swedish features the three novels in the Victoria Bergman trilogy. However, Vintage has done a remarkable job with this paperback edition making it both light and high-quality. For some readers, the length can be a bit daunting, but do not worry. You can read each of the novels separately, as Vintage as kept the original partings, and they are described as ‘Part I’, ‘Part II’, and ‘Part III’. So, there is no need to read the whole book in one sitting, and you can easily read one of the novels, and return to the next part in a few weeks or months. I myself chose to read the three installments consecutively. It can be done, and it is quite an experience.
Upon opening the book, anyone will notice that The Crow Girl is a different novel because it tells a story from different points of view. Instead of focusing on Jeanette Kihlberg, the police officer in charge of investigating the death of young children whose bodies have been dumped in cold Stockholm, the novel prominently features other characters that are key to the development and solving of the crime. Among them is Sofia Zetterlund, a glamorous psychologist who will get involved with Jeanette’s case, and one of the most interesting female characters in contemporary Nordic noir. There are more characters whose point of view enriches the narrative, but since this review is spoiler-free, I will let you discover them for yourself.
Despite this innovative approach to Nordic crime fiction, The Crow Girl – and its authorsand who write under the pen name ‘Erik Axl Sund’ – are conscious of belonging to a long, and beloved crime fiction tradition. For this reason, the novel features the gruesome and realistic portrayal of violence that has become a trademark of Nordic noir. I should highlight here that even though The Crow Girl is a fantastic novel, it contains vivid descriptions of violence towards children and animals, sexual assaults, and forensic examinations.
‘We would rather read a badly written thriller about the horror of it than deal with it in real life’.
Overall The Crow Girl is a great reading, and a must-read for Nordic noir fans. It is a long and complex story featuring two of the most interesting female characters in recent crime fiction. Even though I read it during the summer, this novel would make the perfect back-to-work reading in autumn, as its gritty violence, and shocking plot could spice our yearly back to the routine blues.
Erik Axl Sund is the pen name of writers(a sound engineer), and