REVIEW: The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund

“The perfect Scandi-noir crime thriller to curl up with this Christmas”

The Christmas holidays are upon us, and whilst for many of us it will be a busy time with essays and assignments, it is also the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind with a good book (preferably with a cup of tea and a scented candle nearby). So, without further ado, here is my winter holiday book recommendation. Please note that this book contains references to the sexual abuse of children.

It starts with just one body – the hands bound and the skin covered in marks. Detective Superintendent Jeanette Kihlberg is determined to find the perpetrator, despite opposition from her superior officers. When two more bodies are discovered bearing striking similarities to the first victim, it becomes clear that she is hunting a serial killer. With her career on the line and mounting pressure to find the killer, Jeanette turns to psychotherapist, Sofia Zetterlund. Together, they expose a chain of astonishing events that began decades ago. But will it lead them to the murderer before someone else dies?

I love just about everything Scandinavian, especially crime thrillers, both as novels and TV series. The setting of this book was wonderful to read as the weather, forests and cottages were so vividly described that I felt fully transported to the Swedish landscape. The authenticity was increased by the inclusion of real towns and cities such as Stockholm, and I felt like I was on a sight-seeing trip through Sweden. There were also some hygge moments within characters’ homes; for those of you who don’t know what hygge is (pronounced ‘hue-guh’), it is a Danish word that is used to acknowledge a feeling or moment that is cosy or special. Simple things like a hot beverage, or some tea lights on a coffee table in Jeanette’s and Sofia’s homes gave me a warm and snug feeling inside, which is just the sort of sensation you want when it’s cold outside.

The plot was very tense and thrilling, and I was addicted from start to finish. The short chapters really help to crank up the suspense and they flick between events from different characters’ perspectives, which made me even more eager to read on; just as you find out one revelation in Jeanette’s investigation for instance, you’re whisked away to Sofia’s life and therefore have to wait a little longer before you return to Jeanette’s next chapter. There are so many surprises and shocks throughout the book that I was left speechless and breathless on many occasions. Just when I thought that things couldn’t take a darker turn or become more stunning, they did.

The character of Jeanette is very likeable, and she is determined to follow her gut instincts that she suspects will lead her to the truth, even if her superior officers are sceptical. You really understand her anger at their scepticism too because she’s a woman in what might be assumed to be a man’s sector of employment. It is therefore that much more satisfying when she proves herself to be right and puts her higher-ranked bosses in their places. There are some quieter scenes where characters reflect on events or their personal lives, and it was in these moments that I felt sympathy for Jeanette because her home situation regarding her marriage is not what it once was.

Sofia is perhaps my favourite character because of her complex personality and identity. She is a very troubled individual with a dark past and you cannot help but be empathetic towards her. Despite her difficult upbringing, she is determined to move forward which is not always easy for her, as her memories keep flooding back to remind her of traumatic events. Nevertheless, she puts on an extremely brave face as she tries to come to terms with what has happened to her, and I thoroughly admired her for her ability to lead a relatively normal live in spite of everything that she has been through. I really loved how her relationship with Jeanette blossomed as they collaborated on the murder case, and it offered both of these women hope for their respective futures.

Overall, The Crow Girl is a quintessential Scandi-noir crime thriller, perfect to curl up with this Christmas. Although it is a long book, no page is wasted in a plot that is full of suspense and shocks that will leave you breathless.

Rating: 5/5

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