Åsa Larsson. Until Thy Wrath Be Past. 2008. New York: SilverOak Publishing, 2011.
This book, the fourth in a series about lawyer Rebecka Martinsson and police inspector Anna-Maria Mella, convinced me that sticking to the rather unusual story developments was worthwhile. Unfortunately I've missed the third; seems I was not on the ball or good ole TPL didn't have it. Even though this one, too, employs the "thoughts" of dead spirits, the conceit was well integrated. It's as if Larsson has hit her best stride. Mind you, this latest novel does have a sinister introductory murder scene — yes, the popular perception of darkness in all Scandinavian crime books is evident.
The discovery of a murder scene leads to obvious suspects and the main thrust is how to catch them. We hark back to the Second World War for uncovering secrets. Life in small-town Sweden paints some unsettling characters; childhood flashbacks unveil unhappy home life. Mella and her dependable sergeant might reconcile their estrangement, apparently from book number three. Rebecka's love life has changed and will change again, as a new prospect grows throughout the story. One of her remarks after a horripilating climax actually brought a tear to my eye. I'm hooked. Glad to say there is a new fifth book, not translated as yet.
Oh. And I satisfied two questions. Larsson's books often refer to the colour Falun Red on houses and farm buildings. It's a pigment derived from the copper mine at Falun, Sweden, used since the sixteenth century. Nothing to do with Falun Gong. And the kick sleds that individuals use to get around on the snow, what on earth? Well, it seems they have them in Canada too. Sort of like a senior's "walker" or zimmer frame on skis. Genius.
Wrath, Hjalmar Krekula thinks. Isak's anger is just as strong as it ever was. It provides the backbone that keeps him upright. The anger he feels, knowing that the other villagers are whispering behind his back, the bastards, half of whom whould've been unemployed if it hadn't been for his hauling business; the anger directed at the tax authorities, those damned bloodsuckers, desk-bound wimps who have no idea what life is all about; the anger directed at local politicians, at insurance companies, at company directors, at the jerks in Stockholm, at the evening tabloids, at celebs (junkies, the lot of 'em), at the unemployed and assholes on welfare — idle swine who mailger and cheat and live off the hard work of others; at everything he seens on the television — news bulletins, game shows, reality shows, why the hell should he pay for cable to watch shit like that?; at whoever is responsible for for the fruit in the supermarket in Skaulo — a pile of rotting crap surrounded by swarms of fucking fruit flies; at immigrants and gypsies; at academics — a gang of pretentious jerks with broomsticks shoved up their assholes. (224-225)
Ann Leary. The Good House. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2012.
Hildy Good is a gung-ho New England real estate agent with a very successful business selling high-end houses. Hildy is also a functioning alcoholic; that only becomes apparent as we observe her daily life intersecting with clients, friends, and neighbours. Leary gives us a superb portrait of addiction — the hiding, the attempts to quit, the denial, eventually the blackouts, become more pronounced. Any reader with an alcoholic in the family will quickly identify with the bipolar-like personality shifts.
Narrated in the first person, Hildy coasts along with smart and amusing insights into the lives of others. When she's sober. Unlikely as it may seem, she's a sympathetic character, quite blind to her own defect, how she fools herself. This is not a crime novel, but it has a tragic side. My first impression was where is this story going, who are these boring people? It's not too long, though, before that was dispelled in sensing an indefinable, pending danger in Hildy's relationships as she weaves her way through a virtual double life. It becomes impossible to stop reading, expecting some personal train wreck-or-other at any time. Leary builds the ultimate suspense very well indeed.
A new friend:
Rebecca's offer to pour me a glass of wine was so casual and innocent that I almost asked her to go ahead and pour me a glass of that nice Pinot Noir she was drinking. But I didn't. Instead I said, "You know, I think I'll just have a glass of water for now" and I mumbled something about some medication I was taking, letting her think that I was only not imbibing alcohol that night; that normally, I drink socially, just like her. Just like all the good people of the world. (94)
One of the next mornings ...
"Were you drinking? I saw a bottle of wine on the table ... and it smelled like somebody had been smoking weed when I came in."
"Frank drinks. And he smokes. All my friends drink."
"But you weren't ..."
"No. Of course not."
The relief on Emily's face. You'd think she and Tess had spent their childhoods carrying me out of bars. I know how awful it seems to just so blatantly lie to one's own daughter, but it was for Emily's good. For her peace of mind. She was upset about Adam. She had enough to worry about. (195)