“The Crow Girl”, The Detective Novel Turned into Manic Character Study

When you hear ‘Nordic Noir’, you expect Scandinavian grim landscapes, disturbing themes, physical and emotional violence, morally complex protagonists- usually female leads and overall darkness or a.k.a everything I appreciate in a crime novel. Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo” remains as the genre (and cult) classic till this day. So when I’ve read the synopsis of “The Crow Girl” it felt like my cup of tea. It said:

In a Stockholm city park, police discover the hideously abused body of a young boy. Detective Superintendent Jeanette Kihlberg heads the investigation, battling an apathetic prosecutor and a bureaucratic police force unwilling to devote resources to solving the murder of a nameless immigrant child. But with the discovery of two more mutilated children’s corpses, it becomes clear that a serial killer is at large. Jeanette turns to therapist Sofia Zetterlund for her expertise in psychopathic perpetrators, and their lives become increasingly intertwined, professionally and personally. As they draw closer to the truth about the killings–working together but, ultimately, each on her own–we come to understand that these murders are only the most obvious evidence of a hellishly insidious evil woven deep into Swedish society. As viscerally dramatic as it is psychologically intense, The Crow Girl is a tale of almost unfathomably heinous deeds, and of the profound damage–and the equally profound need for revenge–left in their wake. – Goodreads

And did this 800 page book meet my expectations? NOPE.

Erik Axl Sund is actually a pseudonym of Swedish author duo Jerker Erikssonand Håkan Axlander Sundquist and The Crow Girl is their debut. It’s English translation is a compressed version of the three volume novel about Victoria Bergman, an abused woman with a personality disorder. I know no more facts about them, but the novel felt as if its authors are actual fans of Nordic Noir and wanted their book as violent and perverse as they could. The novel is written really well, I could characterize it with the word – poetic even. It’s language is the only thing that keeps you going . Rather than that I could endlessly name things that bothered me.

Story starts off as a fine crime novel about ritual killings of young boys. Right then you hope it’s gonna introduce you to the interesting investigator , who actually KNOWS what she is doing, who gets into the head of this serial killer, unleashes his motives and traumas and finally haunts him down. But instead we get entangled in the most absurd, complex story with multiple narratives of the most uninteresting police officer, who most of the time doesn’t even know what she is doing; psychoanalyst with personality disorder who narrates as multiple people and takes up in time to make us witness her abuse and transformation of her psyche; child abusers and their revengeful abusees … Narrations change so fast and so often that you lose control over characters, you’re not invested in the story any more. You are not even challenged to think about the criminal mind behind these crimes , you just don’t care.

Only after you finish the book you realize, it was not a crime investigation story at all but merely a close up depiction of series of crimes and reasons behind them.

Main problem of this novel is not the darkness it contains, but the lack of it; Cause excess amount and repetitive nature of ANYTHING can easily lose its meaning.

2 / 5 ⭐️


Poetry of Perversion in “Crash” by J.G. Ballard

If I could compare this book to the specific sound, I’d say it’s something like avant-garde punk; it’s bizarre and mesmerizing, but does everyone like Velvet Underground? Nope.

J.G. Ballard rose to fame in 1960s as an author of science fiction, but controversy around his two bizarre novels “Crash” (1973) and “High-rise” (1975) , both of which then became Hollywood films, seem to me as the main reason that Collins English Dictionary defines the adjective “Ballardian” as
“resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard’s novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments”.

It’s hard to summarize “Crash” in few words, as a story line is somewhat dreamlike. We have protagonists who experience car-crash sexual fetishism and we follow them to the journey through the darkest of their desires, including destroying themselves.

Sexual perversion has never been a subject I avoid in literature. In contrary, it can become an effective instrument to provide an illustration, social commentary, a metaphor or in case of George Bataille e.g. , an instrument to perform a philosophical act. But in Ballard’s “Crash”, perversion doesn’t work for a greater meta-text, it works on its own, it’s just a filthy ode to the dark human nature. The car crash becomes a trigger for the protagonists, activates their fetishism and they can no longer function as before, only way out of this lifestyle is self-destruction.

Reading “Crash” felt like an experiment but to be honest, it was a struggle.

3 / 5 ⭐️