Leif Pudas is fishing through a hole in the ice from his mobile ark and goes outside without a coat to relieve himself. The moorings on his ark come loose and it blows away in the storm. He has only a few minutes to live in the extreme cold, but luckily he stumbles across his snowmobile with a tool box in the seat. He is able to break the window of a nearby ark and climb through into the interior, where he finds a woman’s body.
The woman has signs of having been tortured before her murder and Inspector Anna-Maria Mella with her colleague Sven-Erik Stalnacke begin an investigation.
When the woman is identified is identified as Inna Wattrang, an executive of Kallis Mining, Anna-Maria asks lawyer Rebecka Martinsson to look into the financial background of the company. Rebecka has only recently recovered from her ‘breakdown’ caused by the traumatic events related in The Blood Spilt, the previous book in the series.
The separate financial and criminal investigations merge as Rebecka delves deeply into the financial life of Mauri Kallis the boss of Kallis Mining, and when a local suicide turns out to be another murder the story moves to the exciting climax.
Asa Larsson’s The Black Path is the third in a planned six book series featuring two disparate investigators workaholic tax lawyer Rebecka Martinsson, and mother of four police Inspector Anna-Maria Mella.
The previous books in the series The Savage Altar [Sun Storm in the USA] and The Blood Spilt were respectively named Sweden’s Best First Crime Novel in 2003, and Best Swedish Crime Novel of 2004. The Black Path has been nominated for a Hawaii Five-O police procedural award at the Left Coast Crime Festival 2009.
This along with the nomination of Karin Alvtegen for an Edgar shows that Scandinavian crime fiction is getting some well deserved recognition in the USA.
I really enjoyed The Black Path but had a few minor reservations which were probably more related to my wandering concentration levels than any failures by the author. This dark mysterious novel covers so many of the main themes of modern crime fiction that at times I felt a bit overwhelmed.
Mauri Kallis is a walking success story, who as a child was put in care, but has become a very rich man with business interests all over the world and a private estate where his various relatives live like feudal vassals. The ‘American Dream’ but in Sweden.
The murder victim Inna Wattrang is charismatic, beautiful, sexually promiscuous with rich older men, and has a ‘strange’ relationship with her weak brother Diddi. Diddi and Inna are the beautiful acceptable face of Kallis Mining, a face that hides the company’s amoral exploitation of Africa’s mineral resources and other illegalities.
Mauri Kallis has a 16 year old half sister Ester, the offspring of his mother and an Indian fellow inmate of the psychiatric ward, who is an artist and was brought up in a Sami family. Ester has unusual abilities but only her artistic talent is noticed and because of her age and exotic Indian and Sami background she is ripe for exploitation by trendy gallery owners.
Asa Larsson gives us a lot of the back story for these characters and others explaining some of the psychological background for their present state of mind. She gives us multiple points of view and multiple narrative threads and she does it very well. But at times I found myself wanting the investigation to move forward with more of Anna-Maria and Sven-Erik, and less of Rebecka’s numerous problems, and Diddi’s pathetic behaviour.
This might be just be my impatience because this is a very good book with a very strong message about the brutality of modern global business and the exploitation of the weak.
“….but I pulled myself together and started to speak Finnish instead, and then she thawed out.”
Airi Bylund laughed.
“Oh yes, she probably thought you were a rousku, one of those bastards who can only speak Swedish.”
But at least amid all the darkness the book does end with a glimpse of possible personal happiness for two of the characters. I look forward to reading the next book in this continuing series because it shows how a writer like Asa Larsson is pushing the boundaries by creating an amalgam of psychological thriller, social commentary and police procedural all in one novel.