20 April 2008

THE SAVAGE ALTAR, Asa Larsson

First published in Swedish 2003
Translated by Marlaine Delargy, 2007, 307 pages
Originally published as SUN STORM in the USA

A body lies on the floor of the Crystal Church in Kiruna in Northern Sweden. The church is the home of the pentecostal cult The Source of All Our Strength, and the handless, sightless body is that of its principal inspiration, the Paradise Boy, Viktor Strandgard.

Stockholm tax lawyer Rebecka Martinsson gets a pleading phone call from the victim's sister Sanna, and she hurries home to Kiruna. Rebecka is very familiar with The Source of All Our Strength: she was once a member, and knew Viktor well. Rebecka's boss is not best pleased by her decision to fly to Sanna's help, but she has misunderstood his motives.

The police investigating team consists of the newly appointed Inspector Sven-Erik Stalnacke, the woman he is replacing, the very heavily pregnant, near-term Anna-Maria Mella, and pompous Assistant Chief Prosecutor Carl van Post.

Rebecka Martinnson left Kiruna under a cloud, the reasons for which are gradually revealed as the investigation unfolds. The management of the pentecostal church is not all it should be, and the dynamics that brought it growth and fame are also part of the factors undermining it.

I enjoyed this book immensely. There are many things that I could mention: excellent characterisation, and feeling of place; the human interest element provided by Mella's approaching confinement; a skilful interlacing of back-story and story advancement.

My rating: 4.6

Read an extract and an interview on the Penguin site.

On the final page of the book the author promises that "Rebecka Martinsson will be back, she's not that easy to get rid of. Just give her time." THE SAVAGE ALTAR has been announced as the first of a series of six, featuring Martinsson.

Due out on 1 May 2008 THE BLOOD SPILT.
Synopsis from the Penguin site:
It is midsummer in Sweden - when the light lingers through dawn and the long winter comes to an end. Now, in this magical time, a brutal killer has chosen to strike, and the murder of a female priest sends shockwaves through the community. It has been almost two years since attorney Rebecka Martinsson returned to her birthplace, Kiruna, in order to stop an eerily similar murder spree. Now she is back in Kiruna, where a determined policewoman works on the case and the people who loved or loathed the victim mourn or revel in her demise. As Rebecka is drawn into a mystery that soon will claim another victim, the dead woman's world consumes her: a world of hurt and healing, sin and sexuality, and above all, of lethal sacrifice.

I'll be looking for it.

1 comment:

maxine said...

I've just finished the sequel -- thoroughly enjoyed it.

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