Posted: March 5, 2014 in Book Awards, Historical, review, Scandinavia, Sweden

512S7Oo65LL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_Asa Larsson’s The Second Deadly Sin, which is set in Kiruna way up in the Arctic Circle, was chosen as Best Swedish Crime Novel in 2012. 

The story begins when a hunting party bring in an expert to kill a wounded bear that has attacked and eaten a dog. When the bear is killed the stomach contents show that it has also eaten a human. 

District Prosecutor Rebecka Martinsson is having a quiet Sunday morning when her old friend Sivving, asks her and police Dog handler Krister Eriksson to accompany him out Lehtiniemi in order to check on Sol-Britt Uusitalo who hasn’t turned up for work. When they arrive they find Sol-Britt murdered in her bed, and her 7 year old grandson Marcus missing. Sol-Britt, a recovered alcoholic, had pulled herself together in order to look after Marcus, whose father had been rundown by a car three years previously, and whose mother had run off to Stockholm with her new boyfriend, who would not take Marcus. The traumatised Marcus is found and stays with Eriksson pretending to be a “wild dog” along with the real dogs. Asa Larsson captures the atmosphere of Sweden’s far north where there is a close relationship between man and nature and animals.

Police Inspector Anna-Maria Mella leads the investigating team with colleagues, Tommy Rantakyo, Fred Olson and Sven-Erik Stalnacke. In the Swedish system they are supervised by a prosecutor who is a lawyer. But Rebecka who had been assigned the case is removed by her boss, Bjornfot, after pressure from District Prosecutor Carl Von Post. Rebecka knows the locals, Rebecka had a breakdown in the past. The pompous Von Post takes over the case despite being extremely unpopular with the police. 

When they discover that Sol-Britt’s grandmother, young schoolteacher Elina Petersson, was also murdered the reader is taken back in a series of flashbacks to events in 1914/1915 and the story of Kiruna as a frontier mining town. The two strands of the story come together in a dramatic conclusion with a linked theme.

She looked at Sivving. She knew he had stared real poverty in the face. “We could easily have ended up in a children’s home,” he sometimes used to say.

Not everything was better in the good old days, she thought.

I really enjoyed this book especially the contrast between the modern women Rebecka and Anna-Maria,  and the situation of Elina back in the early twentieth century. Sometimes a back story holds up the narrative but in The Second Sin, Elina’s tragic tale of an educated woman with a modern ideas is compelling reading. Elina reads  and reads books including Selma Lagerlof, the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize, and Ellen Key, whose theories that the 20th century should be the century of the child and that motherhood should be supported by the government not by husbands is probably one of the main reasons for Sweden’s advanced position in the world today. But the vulnerability of all women to powerful ruthless men is a theme in crime fiction that never changes.

The Second Deadly Sin is a book full of great characters, the police dog handler Eriksson, disfigured in a fire as a child; Anna-Maria Mella, struggling with a career and three children; the objectionable prosecutor Von Post; and Rebecka, who could have an easier life as her lover Mans is a partner in a trendy Stockholm  law firm, but chooses to live in Kiruna. The Second Deadly Sin is a good read in a series that continues to deservedly win awards, and restores my faith that there are still outstanding Scandinavian crime fiction books being translated. 

Bloody woman, he thought, examining himself in the mirror. Handsome top dog? Old man? He would go to Riche anyway, and have a glass or two. Just sit there, observing beautiful women. Much better than gaping at “Mad Men” on the telly , all alone in his flat.

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – This series is one of those that I like best, and a good bit of it is because of the characters. Thanks for reminding me. This one’s up high on the TBR, and I’ll be getting to it soon.

  2. Jose Ignacio says:

    Norman, I bought it yesterday and, hopefully, will read it soon. I’m glad the read that it has restored your faith on Scandinavian crime fiction.

  3. Norman Price says:

    Thanks Margot and Jose Ignacio.
    There is a elite group of Scandinavian writers who are really good, and that includes Asa Larsson. Now I think publishers are looking to publish any average translated crime fiction book simply because this is considered trendy.

  4. […] Other reviews appear in Crimepieces, Reactions to Reading, Avid Mystery Reader, and Crimescraps. […]

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