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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Asa Larsson

Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Asa Larsson; translator: Laurie Thompson, who has translated Henning Mankell, Hakan Nesser, and Ake Edwardson.  Another Rebecka Martinsson mystery, Until Thy Wrath Be Past begins with seventeen-year-old Wilma describing the day she and Simon died.

Wilma's voice is so charming that I couldn't help but form an attachment to her character immediately.  Although the supernatural element could have presented a problem, Larsson manages to weave it into the story effortlessly, making it feel entirely appropriate and necessary.

Rebecka Martinsson, who has recovered from her last awful outing, has left her old firm and become District Prosecutor for Kiruna, the rural area where Martinsson grew up.   In a period of transition in both her work and her personal life, Martinsson finds herself resisting the pleas of her lover to return to Stockholm.  She knows she has choices to make, but she isn't ready to make them.

When Wilma's body is discovered, Wilma has the strength to move about and is no longer confined under the ice of the river in which she was found.  In keeping with her character, Wilma has plans for solving her murder.  This is never stated implicitly, but Wilma's behavior is obvious. She visits Martinsson in a dream and tells her that she didn't die in the river where she was found.

The next day when Martinsson is informed about the discovery of Wilma's body,  she visits the pathologist and "wonders" if Wilma actually died in the river.  A test of the water in the girl's lungs determines that Wilma died elsewhere and was moved to the river.

The characters are all three-dimensional and the novel has a psychological aspect that works easily in tandem with the supernatural element.  Familiar characters from previous novels appear and gain substance, and Larsson's portrayal of one of the bad guys creates a surprisingly well-developed character.

Another engrossing thematic thread is one that appears over and over again in Swedish crime fiction--the Swedish collaboration with the Germans during the war.  It appears in the work of Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, Asa Larsson, and others.  Sweden's conflicted/ambiguous position during the war appears to be an unresolved and pervasive issue in Swedish society.

The novel provides some unexpected turns.  Not surprising plot twists that leave you with your mouth open, but rather interesting developments that digress from a straight-line plot sequence.  I did have a quibble about a segment of the resolution, but found it easy to overlook.

Larsson's debut work Sun Storm (original title, The Savage Altar) received the Swedish Crime Writer's Association's prize for best debut novel.  The sequel, The Blood Spilt was chosen as Best Swedish Crime Novel of 2004.  As with all Scandinavian crime fiction that I've read, there is a particular darkness to Larsson's work, but I enjoy them.

Originally, I had titled this post "Three Scandinavian Mysteries," but the review of Until Thy Wrath... became longer than intended (and still just skims the surface), so I'll review the others separately, too.

Fiction.  Crime/Mystery/Police procedural.  2011.  256 pages.


  1. Even though I didn't like Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, I still want to love Scandanavian lit. This looks good.

  2. While I do have some qualms about some of Larsson's novels, I continue to return to them. I'm not good at analyzing, but Scandinavian lit. seems to have a definitive cultural quality. It is interesting that most Scandinavian countries have a lot less violence than we find in our own, but still write darker and frequently, more violent crime fiction. I think this one is the best of the three I've read of Larsson's novels, but it is also not quite as dark.

  3. This sounds intriguing... i'm partial to supernatural elements! Just finished Don't Breathe a Word... have you read that? Very twisty!