There is a piece of sleight-of-hand at the beginning of this novel by Swedish crime queen Åsa Larsson.
It is a tactic which both wrong-foots the reader and imparts some vivid local colour. A man is sitting fishing on a spring evening in Torneträsk. At this time of year, residents make the trip to a secluded area where the ice is more than a metre thick, riding snowmobiles, and towing their “arks” behind them. These arks are small fishing cabins with a hole in the floor through which the fishermen drill into the ice, and sit inside warmed by a gas stove.
But the fisherman in The Black Path, translated by Marlaine Delargy, is unlucky. Stepping outside in his underwear to relieve himself, he watches in horror as his ark is whipped away by a storm. He knows he will die unless he finds another. Finding a deserted one, he breaks in; he sees a blanket on the bed and pulls it off. Underneath lies the body of a woman, her eyes frozen into ice.
At this point the reader realises that this stunningly described chapter is, in fact, a clever revision of one of the oldest clichés in the crime thriller lexicon: the discovery of the corpse that sets the plot in motion. But those who have read Larsson’s The Savage Altar will know that every element of her work is always granted an idiosyncratic new twist. While many Nordic crime writers are content to locate their bloody deeds in suburban cities not unlike those of Britain, Larsson is always looking for the more off-kilter setting.
But this is just the latest in a flurry of glowing notices for perhaps the strongest book in the series . . .
“Another enormously successful Swedish import, Larsson is a remarkably good writer who has been well served by her translator” Literary Review
“Torture, corruption and perversion: there is no shortage of naughtiness in Åsa Larsson’s The Black Path . . . A superior example of Scandinavian noir” Sunday Telegraph
“Larsson’s chilling insight into the worst of human nature cannot be faulted” Irish Examiner.
“A compelling read . . . this series is really amongst the cream of recently translated Scandinavian crime fiction” Eurocrime
The Black Path is available now in hardback and from September in paperback,