Wednesday, January 17

The Blood Spilt by Asa Larsson

Review by Gloria Feit


The first two brief chapters of The Blood Spilt describers a murder, one as it is being committed, from the p.o.v. of the murderer [the only such chapter so written], the second as her body is later discovered, hanging by a chain from a church organ loft in the Swedish mountain town of Kiruna, the victim having been done awful, pointless violence as well.  Thus is the reader introduced to the world of Asa Larsson and her protagonist, Rebecka Martinsson, an attorney who has been on extended sick leave after an incident during which she killed three people in that same town, Kiruna, where she was born and raised.    The murder of the woman, Mildred Nillson, a priest, is reminiscent of that of a male priest murdered in the area in the past.  It was in the aftermath of that earlier killing that Rebecka's traumatic event took place, his murderer one of those she shot.  Her firm's attempts to establish a professional relationship with the Church following the woman priest's death reluctantly brings Rebecka back to Kiruna for the first time since those killings nearly two years prior.  The question arises whether Mildred's murder was committed by someone 'who'd been keeping a scrapbook after the first murder and decided to make a sequel of their own,' or was entirely unrelated to the earlier event.  Mildred was known as Kiruna's foremast local feminist, with a passionate, indomitable personality, and had made many enemies.  Rebecka inevitably ends up involved in the investigation.


This new book by Asa Larsson, in a translation by Marlaine Delaroy, contains wonderful descriptions of the Swedish countryside, particularly its forests, as well as those of inner landscapes and reminiscences of  times past, of loved ones lost, whether parent or spouse, and a she-wolf known as "Yellow Legs," whose story is like a running theme throughout the book.    The scenes become palpable:  "At first the thoughts in your head are like a tangled skein of wool.  The branches scrape against your face or catch in your hair.   One by one the threads are drawn from the skein.  Get caught in the trees.  Fly away with the wind.  In the end your head is empty.  And you are transported.   Through the forest.  Over steaming bogs, heavy with scent, where your feet sink between the still frozen tussocks and your body feels sticky.  Up a hill.  Fresh breeze.   The dwarf birch creeping, glowing on the ground.  You lie down.  And then the snow begins to fall."  And, later on, "The snow has completely gone.  The ground is steaming, quivering with longing for life. &n bsp; Everywhere things are crawling, chirruping, crackling and playing.  Leaves burst open on the aching trees.  Summer is coming from below like a green, unstoppable wave."   The Blood Spilt is not a book of pulse-pounding suspense [until the final pages, at any rate], but exerts a more subtle pull as it moves toward the horrifying resolution.  It is a well-wrought, disturbing and beautifully written novel.


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