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The Blood Spilt by Asa Larsson
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The Blood Spilt (original 2004; edition 2007)

by Asa Larsson

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6193115,730 (3.42)38
Member:petergw
Title:The Blood Spilt
Authors:Asa Larsson
Info:Delta (2007), Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Crime

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The Blood Spilt by Åsa Larsson (2004)

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English (17)  Spanish (6)  Swedish (2)  Danish (2)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Feb 2015.
Suffers from similarity to book 1, The Savage Altar. And can be a bit clunky at times - the inevitable contrast when reading part of a middling crime series after a bunch of more 'literary' books. I liked the middle 60% or so, despite being exasperated enough with the beginning to set the book aside for six weeks, and an ending that went overboard with enough deaths for a Shakespearean tragedy.

Having read about Åsa Larsson's religious past growing up in Kiruna, where the Rebecka Martinsson series is set, it looks as if she was working through anti-church feeling in these first couple of books. The Savage Altar dealt with a dodgy cult-like evangelical church; The Blood Spilt, workaday establishment Protestants who are merely a bit corrupt. This second book isn't quite so negative - but the murder victim, an outspoken feminist priest and community activist, is still the only 'good', and the least compromised, member of church authority. Mildred Nilsson's politics and schemes sound pretty normal for an urban hippie Anglican church, but are an affront in a Swedish rural township, 10+ years ago, in the grip of old men whose main interest is hunting. (A sport which doesn't have quite the same class connotations in Sweden as in Britain, though still the same conservatism and cronyism.)

It's the clearest example of the femikrimi subgenre I've read, in which female detectives take the lead investigating a crime against a woman which has gender-political dimensions. A few months ago I binge-watched all the TV adaptations of Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter, a series squarely identified as femikrimi, and almost every episode ended with Annika deliberately or accidentally confronting a criminal - in plot terms she was bait, later rescued by police who finally arrested the culprit. I hope this series (I've got the 3 others) isn't going to follow more or less that pattern every time... I liked the first book more because Rebecka was a bit of an action hero at the end. [Having seen a couple of recent reviews mentioning the paucity of serious contemporary crime novels that don't involve rape & sexual abuse, I'll mention that isn't part of the main plot here, though a supporting character has a couple of short flashbacks to experiences long ago.]

Whilst there's emphasis in The Blood Spilt on the corruption of the local old boys' network, Larsson hasn't made it all so black and white as 'men bad, women good': a supporting female character who's always nice in the novel says she was 'crazy, dependent and abusive' to some of her exes; star police Inspector Anna Maria Mella's house is a rancid tip; and the least-angsty Kiruna-based characters are perhaps a punk guy who owns a cafe, and a policeman who's nevertheless troubled by the disappearance of his cat. What I liked in the middle, main, part of the novel was the way everyone was a bit fucked up but still getting on with things. Ideal for those misery-loves-company times. (I'm also a sucker for the simple nature descriptions mixed with Swedish & Finnish placenames - this sort of thing makes parts of these Scandinavian crime novels more relaxing than the storylines alone suggest.)

Now, this is where I repeat themes myself [specifically from the last completed review I posted, of The Book of Disquiet]...
At the beginning of The Blood Spilt, Martinsson is off long-term sick from work with PTSD, after having had no choice but to kill some nasty pieces of work at the end of The Savage Altar.
Why is she suffering from such an extreme and un-ambivalent sense of worthlessness given the nature of their crimes? Is this partly a cultural thing - different from Anglo-American culture where you'd always hear people saying they wish they could have done the same to the same sort of people? She's never seen weighing up that versus the horrific experience of the actual killing (which a lot of those people have probably never thought about). Her overriding problem is basically single-incident combat trauma. (She didn't have the best of childhoods, which would have made her reaction likely worse than that of someone who'd grown up securely attached, but her background isn't exactly horrific and she's far from loaded down with complicating factors.) Perhaps something to do with its being Sweden and not UK/US, so maybe there isn't as much respect for, and funding and research to help with, combat trauma. [Later addition, after watching series 2 of The Bridge - there, a traumatised detective was, for the most part, a well-done character: not suffering no effects like a Jackie Chan hero - perhaps the point Larsson hoped to make with Rebecka - but still able to work and function better than she is here after worse happening. (Although the last episode showed him differently, but it just didn't fit the character and seemed to be there simply to write the actor out of the next series ...for The Bridge end of season 2.)]

I felt that her listless (non) approach didn't ring true with the rest of her character - Rebecka as established would have been doing research and trying out solutions, fiercely independent so as not to have to deal with busybody colleagues. She wasn't someone unused to pushing through in circumstances of great difficulty in isolation; I'm not convinced that that personality would end up this bad. She isn't the sort of character who should be making me want to go and talk to her and say, look, try this, you don't even need to be at the point of being able to talk about the stuff, it's very good and it's not like you can't fucking afford it or haven't got time. When I picked the book up again, the opening section in which Rebecka is depressed in Stockholm was nearly over ...And soon enough, okay, now I see what you're doing. Fair enough. This is the old-fashioned 'sulk as bloody well long as you need to, and then sort yourself out via simple daily activities' method. And which does after all make sense given the resilience of the character in book 1.

(Other characters let her get away with a lot - I laughed at the scene in which she asks the guest house to deny they have room for her companion so she can have some space, or otherwise she won't stay either. She doesn't even offer to pay extra, the cheek! I find it hard to believe that in communal Sweden anyone would get away with this, when you can't here. I tried to pull similar stuff when I was much younger, booking two seats, that sort of thing - and they won't let you. If it's unoccupied by a person, it has to be available for others. No arguments. You just gotta metaphorically hold your breath and deal. She'd have been a terrible example for me to read as a teenager, but now I just loved her and found it hilarious.)

She seemed to have good prospects until the shit hits the fan all over again. I'm not sure there's even a great argument for psychological verisimilitude via repetition compulsion - it's bad luck (at a point where she's being fairly rationally daring whilst starting to feel better). But actually this is just fiction, and weird authorial decision-making to put the character through the wringer in very similar circumstances again. Why didn't editors tell Larsson to stop re-writing the first book and instead introduce more difference?

Perhaps my observations are skewed by having read a lot of darkish litfic, and not having much time for poorly-written "inspirational" cheese, but I get the impression that in fiction, if a story's primary topic isn't therapy or psychologically getting over something, then it's often made to seem as if these things can't help, or don't happen. Looking ahead to book 5 in the Martinsson series, the blurb says "with doubts over her mental health still lingering, she is ousted from the case" - so she still isn't put in a position to seriously get past this crap and be the highly competent person she clearly is otherwise? It's hard not to tie this into a conversation I'd been having in the past few days about the rise of offendedness and the recent casual ubiquity of the term traumatised - that there's a sense that it's an eternal state, not something which could ever be better, and things better coped-with. There it has clear political overtones - rather than being sensationalist thriller-plotting although the same pessimistic implication more or less results.

I like the characters of Rebecka, and Anna-Maria Mella, more than enough to still want to read the other books - but am no longer looking forward so much to some of Larsson's decision-making and plots.
( )
  antonomasia | Feb 4, 2015 |
The second Rebecka Martinsson mystery, in which Rebecka is trying to recover from the trauma of the first story, and must revisit Kiruna, where some months before, a female priest has been killed. Another dark, dark Swedish mystery, with a couple of strong female protagonists. Larsson can create some especially interesting secondary characters, but some of her plot devices are rather baldly telegraphed. Still, nice twists, and I really like the various levels of commitment, confusion and personal situations of her ensemble players. ( )
  ffortsa | Nov 28, 2014 |
to me this was an average mystery read. not gripping ( )
  kiwifortyniner | Oct 15, 2014 |
The second in Asa Larsson's Rebecka Martinsson series. This one follows Rebecka's recovery from the trauma she suffered at the end of the first book, and her return to Kiruna to heal. Naturally, while there, she gets caught up in another murder. The character development here is excellent, though the story--involving the murder of yet another clergyman--bears a little too much resemblance to the plot in the first. Also, why do dogs have to die in every installment of this series?! Now I know why, in the afterword to the fifth book (which was the first one I read), she apologizes, sort of, for "mak[ing] a mess of Martinssson's face, and kill[ing] dogs." Still: if you're a fan of female detectives and/or Nordic Noir, don't let that stop you from giving these books a try. ( )
  rvhatha | Jun 28, 2014 |
I found this rather hard going and eventually abandoned it after reading about a third.
  edwardsgt | Jul 6, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385340796, Paperback)

It’s midsummer in Sweden—when the light lingers through dawn and a long, isolating winter finally comes to an end. In this magical time, a brutal killer has chosen to strike. A female priest—who made enemies and acolytes in equal number—has been found hanging in her church. And a big-city lawyer quite acquainted with death enters the scene as police and parishioners try to pick up the pieces....

Not long ago, attorney Rebecka Martinsson had to kill three men in order to stop an eerily similar murder spree—one that also involved a priest. Now she is back in Kiruna, the region of her birth, while a determined policewoman gnaws on the case and people who loved or loathed the victim mourn or revel in her demise. The further Rebecka is drawn into the mystery—a mystery that will soon take another victim—the more the dead woman’s world clutches her: a world of hurt and healing, sin and sexuality, and, above all, of sacrifice.

In prose that is both lyrical and visceral, Åsa Larsson has crafted a novel of pure entertainment, a taut, atmospheric mystery that will hold you in thrall until the last, unforgettable page is turned


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:19 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

It's midsummer in Sweden, when the light lingers through dawn and a long, isolating winter finally comes to an end. In this magical time, a brutal killer has chosen to strike. A female priest, who made enemies and acolytes in equal number, has been found hanging in her church. And a big-city lawyer quite acquainted with death enters the scene as police and parishioners try to pick up the pieces.... Not long ago, attorney Rebecka Martinsson had to kill three men in order to stop an eerily similar murder spree, one that also involved a priest. Now she is back in Kiruna, the region of her birth, while a determined policewoman gnaws on the case and people who loved or loathed the victim mourn or revel in her demise. The further Rebecka is drawn into the mystery, a mystery that will soon take another victim, the more the dead woman's world clutches her: a world of hurt and healing, sin and sexuality, and, above all, of sacrifice.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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