22 May 2012

Dead woman talking

As usual, I approached the fiction section of the Northfield Public Library with my reading list in hand. The list is alphabetical by author, so I intentionally look at things that are not at the top or bottom. No sense favoring Sarah Andrews over Qiu Xiaolong.

What I came across first was ├ůsa Larsson's Until Thy Wrath Be Past. A cop and a prosecuting attorney in a remote place in northern Sweden are starring characters. They both have histories (some of it told in earlier books) and they're both interesting and attractive characters. The Swedish author is a former attorney, so I assume she knows what she's talking about when it comes to the law and order part of things and her references to Scandinavian mythology.

However, I'm not so sure about other things. The book opens with a woman narrating her own murder. Almost the next thing I recall is that the dead woman appears to the prosecutor in a dream, offering important information about the crime. Give me a break! Give me Sherlock Holmes!

Last time I read a book narrated by a dead person, it was pretty awful. It was a best seller for quite awhile, but I was not a fan. So, I was put off by the beginning of Larsson's book, but I kept reading.

I discover that I can skip the supernatural messages (that thankfully are in italics) and still follow the investigation and the characters. The story really revolves around an old woman and her middle aged sons. There are links to Swedish cooperation with occupying Nazis during World War II, a Steinbeck-like pair of brothers, and an extreme case of school yard bullying that didn't stop at the school yard fence.

Except for the unnecessary messages from beyond the grave, it's an integrated story that's well-told. You might even like the voice of the dead helping to narrate things. Oh, and one of the murderers is set up as a figure like the Biblical Job. Well, I can see how Larsson frames that, but I really thought that a key element of the story of Job was that his suffering was unearned. The suffering shlub in this story is anything but innocent.

Well, if I can ignore voice of a dead woman and resist insisting on a more accurate Biblical analogy, I liked reading the book. I'd like to suggest that an unintentional witness, unknown to either the criminals or the police would be a better vehicle for moving the story along or adding details than the ghostly whispers of a dead woman. A dead woman who is ushered off this earthly stage at the end of the book by the equally dead spirit of her grandmother.

So, have you read Until Thy Wrath Be Past? Did you like it? How did you react to the spirits? How did you react to the plot and the story telling? Write and tell this little bit of the world how you reacted.

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