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At the start of Larsson's solid procedural debut, neurotic, troubled Sanna Strandgård discovers the brutally butchered body of her brother, Viktor, on the floor of the church he founded in Kiruna, a provincial town in the north of Sweden. Sanna turns to her childhood friend, Rebecka Martinsson, a tax attorney in Stockholm, for emotional support and legal assistance when Sanna is charged with her brother's murder. While the local police investigate, led by refreshingly down-to-earth Insp. Anna-Maria Mella, Martinsson starts digging into the case as well as her own past connection with the victim and his church. Potential motives for Strandgård's murder range from the church's business dealings to sexual intrigue, but the focus is on Martinsson's anger and frustration at being sucked back into her own past. The story builds to a thrillerlike ending, though Larsson introduces far more characters than she needs or can handle. The book won Sweden's Best First Crime Novel award. (May)
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The Swedish invasion continues with this sure-handed thriller from a talented first novelist. Rebecca Martinsson, an overworked junior member in a Stockholm law firm, comes from remote Kiruna in Sweden's far north, where she was involved with a fundamentalist church called The Strength of All Our Strength. Now a charismatic church leader has been brutally murdered. After receiving a call from the victim's sister, Sanna, Rebecca immediately returns to Kiruna and the craziness she thought she had escaped. It's a lot crazier now, she soon discovers, as Sanna is arrested for the murder, and Rebecca finds herself saddled with trying to prove her innocence and take care of her two young girls. Larsson builds suspense gradually but inexorably, and she is equally good at creating mood, using the frozen landscape and isolated location to evoke the icy inner lives of the church members and the building need for release. More like Ruth Rendell's psychological thrillers than the procedurals of Larsson's fellow Swedes (Mankell and Thursten, for example), this impressive debut nevertheless heralds yet another striking voice from Scandinavia. Bill Ott
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