A child’s body, mummified and severely mutilated, is discovered near a train station in Stockholm. It’s one of the most heinous crimes scenes Detective Jeanette Kihlberg has ever been called to, and with the help of psychologist Sofia Zetterlund, she’s is determined to catch the killer. But the dead child is merely a hint at the horrors to come and Kihlberg cannot imagine how dark and twisting the labyrinth that lies before her.
…And that’s all I can say without giving too much away.
The Crow Girl is a brutal, unrelenting thriller fuelled by false leads and unexpected twists, and the less you know going in, the more you’re likely to enjoy it. It does, however, make for tricky reviewing. I’ll do my best.
Erik Axl Sund is actually two authors: Jerker Eriksson and Håkan Axlander Sundquist, and The Crow Girl has been translated into English by Neil Smith. It was originally published as a trilogy, but in the English translation appears as a single volume divided into three parts. At 784 pages, it’s a big read to tackle in one go. It works well as a single continuous narrative, but there were moments when I felt I was reading separate stories that had been stitched together. This was also my first foray into Scandinavian crime and, wow, did I ever jump in the deep end.
The plot is epic in scope, and on a purely mechanical level, it was incredible watching all the pieces slowly come together. I felt unreasonably smug when I picked the first major twist, but I crowed too soon. After that, every time I thought I could see where the story was headed, it veered off in an unexpected direction. That said, the narrative felt unnecessarily complicated. There are entire subplots and characters which serve little purpose other than to misdirect the reader, and the story could benefit from losing a few hundred pages.
The subject matter is also challenging and disturbing. At the centre of the story are a series of violent sexual crimes against children. And The Crow Girl makes for a harrowing read. At first, I was concerned that it was going to devolve into some awful torture porn mess; however, while the story is sensationalised, the authors use the narrative to pose a serious question: why do so many crimes of this nature go unreported? There are some descriptions of the crimes, but the really hairy stuff is, for the most part, left off-page. Instead, the story interrogates the power structures and willful ignorance that facilitate such crimes and gives a voice to the survivors.
Overall, The Crow Girl is a dark, sinister and sprawling thriller that will keep you guessing until the final page.
Thank you to Random House UK for providing a copy of The Crow Girl in exchange for an honest review.
Thanks also to Grammarly for picking up 3 critical issues in my draft of this review. If, like me, you have trouble with typos, do give Grammarly a go!
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