Still reeling from her last encounter with evil (The Blood Spilt, 2007), Stockholm attorney Rebecka Martinsson accepts a probationary position as special prosecutor in a third fraught murder case.
For someone who was such a big noise when she was alive—she was head of information for the global corporation Kallis Mining—Inna Wattrang certainly met with an ignominious end. When the Kiruna police finally identify her and trace the murder scene from the chilly spot where her body was found back to her own home, they realize that she was methodically tortured before being stabbed to death. Who could have done such a terrible thing to a woman with such deep roots in the community? The events that unfold from here on out—90 percent of them in the past—dramatize the ways roots can go entirely too deep for comfort. Shifting between present and past with disconcerting rapidity, Larsson reveals the intricacies of Inna’s past with her brother Diddi, an incompetent who ends up handling Kallis Mining’s finances, and Mauri Kallis, a local boy who makes good beyond his wildest dreams. The shifting relationships among this unholy trinity—compounded further by the arrival of Mauri’s long-separated sister Ester, a gifted artist—are so baroque and perverse that they eclipse the official investigation and reduce Rebecka and Anna-Maria Mella, the police inspector she’s working with, to supporting roles. As Ester reflects shortly before the climactic bloodbath that carries off most of the cast, “[W]hile her feet are following the black path, she herself is living in another world. You could call it a memory, but it’s happening now. Again.”
Larsson’s attraction to the pathology of psychological and physical violence is so baleful and intense that it’s almost a relief to see her troubled heroine upstaged by an even more troubled group of suspects.