Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Asa Larsson - Sun Storm

On the floor of a church in northern Sweden, the body of a man lies mutilated and defiled–and in the night sky, the aurora borealis dances as the snow begins to fall....So begins Åsa Larsson’s spellbinding thriller, winner of Sweden’s Best First Crime Novel Award and an international literary sensation.
Rebecka Martinsson is heading home to Kiruna, the town she’d left in disgrace years before. A Stockholm attorney, Rebecka has a good reason to return: her friend Sanna, whose brother has been horrifically murdered in the revivalist church his charisma helped create. Beautiful and fragile, Sanna needs someone like Rebecka to remove the shadow of guilt that is engulfing her, to forestall an ambitious prosecutor and a dogged policewoman. But to help her friend, and to find the real killer of a man she once adored and is now not sure she ever knew, Rebecka must relive the darkness she left behind in Kiruna, delve into a sordid conspiracy of deceit, and confront a killer whose motives are dark, wrenching, and impossible to guess...

Comment: I saw this book at the library and remembering one or two friends had liked it, I decided to bring it with me but apart from the obvious genre, I knew nothing else about it nor about the author.

In this book we meet Rebecka Martinsson, a young woman who works as a financial lawyer in Stockholm, and her life takes a turn she didn't want when a phone call from Sanna, an old friend up north, makes her rush to try to see if she can do something to help. Her friend's brother, a well known religious minister has been killed and the police suspects Sanna. Upon arrival, things become rather complicated not only because being back brings back a lot of memories for Rebecka, but because her professional life gets mixed in the whole case. One thing she knows: someone killed Viktor, someone is still on the loose in Kiruna and perhaps it is up to Rebecka to find the truth before someone innocent pays the price...

Although the main character is working in Stockholm, the action takes place in Kiruna, a place much farther north, which I looked for on google maps to have an idea, and really, the amount of information and places out there about things we never think about but then comes a novel and suddenly we might want to know more. I found it a real treat to be able to check the map and see some images online, making me very glad I don't live in such a cold place.

This was probably the element I liked the most about this book, that it was set in such an unknown location (for most non Swedish readers). Everything else was a little less appealing and while I still found eagerness to know what happened, I must say the writing was a bit too odd for me to really appreciate whatever aim the author had. When I say odd I mean the change from one sequence to another, one chapter to another or even still in there same chapter but from character to character, felt it lacked cohesion and made the story feel forced when it came to keep things in the air. This is a thriller, so there is a purpose on letting some things remain mysterious but the writing style didn't win me over.

Perhaps this has something to do with the translation... I've read it in my language, which was translated from the English version if I read the technical details correctly, but it really felt a lot of the information was just thrown up in the air to keep up the mystery vibe and the characters weren't developed as deeply or as richly as they could have.

Rebecka, for instance, is intriguing and has a past related to religion, as it seems the general population in Kiruna was strongly devoted, but since this is only the first book, I think it would have been better to develop her more slowly as the series would move forward because what we are given about her in this novel feels like it fits a lot of clichés and, again, it seemed a little forced for the plot planned. I still can't say a lot about her, only that she is clever, she suffered trauma and was unfairly treated but now she has this defense mechanism of being cynic and not wanting to care, but then the result is that she came across as being too cold and difficult to sympathize with, which doesn't make me eager to know more about her.

Portuguese cover
The secondary characters are only there to play a role, I felt the characterization wasn't very good and there wasn't a lot about them to make them special. Meaning, even if the protagonist wasn't such a detached character in how she behaves, the others didn't seem to matter much in the long term, they were described in very obvious ways for us to know what to expect of them, and even the supposed less obvious clues to distract us from their possible real roles weren't done with enough depth, so everyone reads as a very basic.

The religious content was interesting, especially since it feels most inhabitants are more part of a sect than a more recognizable Christian group. I felt something shady has to explain all this, why they behaved like that, how they came to believe in what they said in such a specific way, but it turns out the mystery behind the group and the way they gained popularity among the several generations of Kiruna inhabitants has the same old explanations. I hoped for something clever for why they act mysteriously at times and it turned out it was just like most books with the same theme, namely regarding finances and secrets.

As for the reason why Viktor is killed, that is a little more ingenious but, sadly for me, the set up was too random. There isn't a believable segment to explain how it got to that point, and the hints about motif and influence of others weren't enough for me. Perhaps in the sequels more on this might be said/explained especially if Rebecka shows up again and if the series is to have some sequential character development, but I admit I don't feel that interested in wanting to know.

All in all, there enough elements to make this a positive read for me but it wasn't as amazing as it could have been, in my opinion.
Grade: 5/10

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