REVIEW: The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund

The Crow Girl was a bit of a random buy for me. I was online ordering a couple of other books, when it popped up and was labelled as a must read crime novel. Ever since devouring the three Michel Bussi novels translated into English, I’ve been on the lookout for some really good crime fiction. I was intrigued by the location, the novel is set in Sweden and I don’t think I have read many or any books set there. I was also curious about the use of two female lead characters. Also, the writer. Erik Axl Sund is in fact a pseudonym for the two writers, Jerker Erikson and Hakan Sundquist who wrote the novel together, it was translated to English by Neil Smith. I am quite fascinated by the idea of two writers working on a novel together and wonder how the process works, particularly as I find writing to be a very independent process.

The blurb tells of a body which is found covered in unusual marks. Detective Superintendent Jeanette Kihlberg is put in charge of the case and turns to psychologist Sofia Zetterlund for help. Soon they realise that they are dealing with a serial killer and one who has been murdering for not just years, but decades.

This is a pretty hefty book, 768 pages of small text and chapters that are crammed together on the page. I actually read the book surprisingly quickly, it took just under a week. I would worry about reading it any slower though as there are that many twists and turns, changes in era and tone, that it would be quite difficult to keep track of everything if you weren’t fully concentrating or read it over a short space of time. Therefore, I would recommend saving this one for when you have time off to read it in one go.

The book is very well written and nothing seems to have been lost in translation. The first big twist comes in the first few hundred pages and I was very curious at that point to see how the story would develop and whether I would still be hooked by the end. There were plenty more twists to come and I certainly wasn’t disappointed, however there were a few small things that I struggled with in this book.

First of all (and this could be a translation issue) I found some of the dialogue to be stilted or to feel quite false. Particularly when the two women were developing a relationship, their language felt contrived and not as realistic as it did at other times. There were also moments where phrases like ‘big hugs’ were suddenly used by characters who had never used such language before, I just don’t think many grown women speak like that, particularly within ear shot of work colleagues. Then I found that some of the moving around was a little too abrupt, moving backwards and forwards so much that it did get confusing by the final third. By the end everything was drawn together but I did feel as though I had to really concentrate until then. Finally, some of the sections in this book are really disturbing. I don’t think I was expecting the level of gore and violence as I have read plenty crime novels and they have always hinted enough without going into too much detail. For me, this felt gratuitous as times – I certainly wouldn’t cope with this book in film or television form if they kept all of the scenes in it.

Overall, this book has a really gripping story line that unravels cleverly, piecing together events over decades. Although a little longer than I think it needed to be, it is still a very well written novel that I definitely think is worth reading, that being said, this is definitely not one for the faint of heart or squeamish!

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