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The Black Path [Paperback]

Asa Larsson , Marlaine Delargy
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 29 2008
A grisly torture-murder, a haunting northern Sweden backdrop, and a dark drama of twisted sexuality collide memorably in Åsa Larsson’s masterpiece of suspense—a tale of menace, hope, longing, and darkness beyond imagining.

The dead woman was found on a frozen lake, her body riddled with evidence of torture. Instantly, Inspector Anna-Maria Mella knows she needs help. Because the dead woman—found in workout clothes with lacy underwear beneath them—was a key player in a mining company whose tentacles reach across the globe. Anna-Maria needs a lawyer to help explain some things—and she knows one of the best.

Attorney Rebecka Martinsson is desperate to get back to work, to feel alive again after a case that almost destroyed her. Soon Rebecka is prying into the affairs of the dead woman’s boss, the founder of Kallis Mining, whose relationship with his star employee was both complex and ominous. But what Rebecka and Anna-Maria are about to uncover—a tangled drama of secrets, perversion, and criminality—will lay bare a tale as shocking as it is sad…about a man’s obsession, a woman’s lonely death, and a killer’s cold, cold heart.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In Swedish author Larsson's superb, gut-wrenching police procedural, Insp. Anna-Maria Mella and her longtime partner, Sven-Erik Stålnacke, investigate the brutal torture-murder of Inna Wattrang, head of information for Kallis Mining, whose body is found in an ark, a small cabin on runners, on a frozen lake. The paucity of clues leads the inspector to take the unconventional step of recruiting a new prosecutor, Rebecka Martinsson, to the team. Martinsson's single-minded devotion to her work is of great benefit to Mella, whose inquiries into the self-made founder of Kallis as well as the victim's brother lead her to believe that the motive for the brutal crime stems from Kallis Mining's unscrupulous business practices. While the plot offers little mystery, this intelligent thriller carries tremendous emotional heft and makes Swedish society easily comprehensible to an American reader. Larsson's debut, Sunstorm (2003), was named Sweden's Best First Crime Novel of the Year. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“Asa Larsson is as deft at writing heart-stopping scenes … as she is at getting inside the heads of characters.”—Washington Post

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars worth the effort Jan. 15 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have not read earlier titles by Larsson, but I will.

As a police procedural, hmmm. As a psychological novel, The Black Path is a fine unravelling of characters. So many characters, in fact, that I had huge trouble keeping them clear in my mind. As a work of fiction, the language is gorgeous, the images beautifully, even poetically expressed. I give full credit to Marlaine Delargy for a superb translation, with only occasional, subtle slips of idiom. The plot is strong, the characters are fully realised and well defined.

Then why four stars? I take a deep breath. Here goes. From page one I was drawn into the internal voice of the protagonist - I think she is the protagonist - Rebecka Martinsson, just recovering from a severely debilitating psychosis. Next, I am literally in the pants of somebody named Leif Pudas. Okay, a new voice, I see it from his eyes, very interesting. He finds a dead body in a fishing hut on a frozen lake. Then comes Inspector Anna-Maria Mella - Can this actually be the protagonist? She is in charge of investigating the mysterious corpse, setting off our police procedural. I am becoming a little worried, being pulled inside the heads of these three characters, one leaping upon the next in quick succession.

It gets more confusing. There is a Lapp child, Ester, who seems not to be entirely present in her own head; there is somebody named Sven-Erik Stålnacke (turns out he is a repeat character in this series), there is a whole family of international high-rollers, each with his/her own fully developed voice, there is even the corpse herself, from inside her head, told fully in flashbacks with flashbacks.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another gripping investigation... June 18 2012
By Raven
Format:Paperback
The latest instalment in Asa Larsson's 'Rebecka Martinsson' series and to my mind, her best to date. Rebecka has seemingly made a full recovery from the horrific attack of the previous book and after her release from the psychiatric unit, finds herself embroiled in another murder investigation with the wonderful female detective Anna-Maria Mella. This is where Larsson excels in her characterisation that portrays Rebecka as an outwardly strong but essentially damaged woman and Anna-Maria, who witnesses so much horror in her day job, as an incredibly grounded and centred character, and who acts as a perfect foil to Rebecka's polar opposite characteristics. The interplay and deep-seated respect and affection between them is even more prevalent in this plot as they work together to uncover some insidious goings on within an extremely influential yet corrupt mining corporation that leads to greed and murder. I think this book is the closest in context that I've read to say 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' or 'The Killing' where the more socio-political plot is given centre stage and I did find the detail regarding the corruption of big business in Third World countries extremely interesting. Obviously this was running parallel with the murder investigation and the strange trinity of the murdered woman, her brother and his friend- the figures at the forefront of the mining corporation- and their interaction and relationships with each other which was equally compelling. An accomplished and highly readable thriller from Larsson who just gets better with every book...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  48 reviews
57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This Sept. 11 2008
By Wickie L. Bowman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a reader who has read all of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallender mysteries, Karin Fossum's Conrad Sejer mysteries, Kjell Eriksson, Arnaldur Indridason, and Mari Jungstedt, and the best of the British, Peter Robinson, Reginald Hill, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, etc., I have to say that the discovery of the books of Asa Larsson are exceptional. The psychology, motivations, and plot devices are so riveting. I have read the first 3 books, in what I understand is to be a series of 6, and they are truly, "I can't put them down" reads. The darkness of the books is in keeping with the Scandanavian tradition, but there is so much more subtlety. The descriptions, the little surprises of language, and the occasional dark humor, are totally involving. I recommend reading the first, second, and third in order, if possible. 'The Black Path', the third of the septet, have left me eagerly awaiting the next three. The intelligence of writing is astonishing.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing series of novels -- but I wouldn't call them police procedurals Nov. 3 2008
By jenmoocat - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the third book in a series of novels set in northern Sweden. I originally found the first one, Sun Storm, while looking for foreign police procedurals, which I consume voraciously. However, I wouldn't really put these books into that genre -- which might be why some people gave them low ratings.

Yes, there is a central mystery. Yes, there are police people searching out clues. Yes, there is CSI-like pathology stuff. But, by the third book, The Black Path, it is almost secondary.

Asa Larsson and her interpreter have an AMAZING way with words! The images conjured up are amazing and breathtaking. And she builds incredibly rich characters that you watch grow and change and evolve throughout the story. And they are so unforgettable! Rebecka and Sivving and Nalle and Mans and Swen-Erik....

There is a distinct structure to the novels that I am really enjoying, but that is very different from other police procedurals (like those of Mankell) -- so be warned.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars cautionary tale Jan. 18 2009
By time traveler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is the 3d in a crime series focused on Sweden's northernmost town, Koruna, the author's birthplace. In particular, it addresses the fates of girls and boys from difficult backgrounds there who seem to have 'made it' in the greater world - be that capital Stockholm or, in this book, even Africa, in which Swedish mining firms do operate. That greater world may bring money status and money. Butit also may bring murder and bloody violence. The `Black Path' turns out to be both material and metaphorical. Rebecka, the female Stockholm lawyer from Koruna,is still with us, but the focus is now on a Koruna boy who has risen to the top of the worldwide mining industry. A terrible murder, wrought from that industry, pops up back home. Our familiar Koruna woman-man detective team must deal with it. This device still roots the book as a local police procedural. A potential reader of this series best do so in order, beginning with the first, `Sun Storm.' She or he should have an interest in differing environments, but also be on the lookout for the constants in human nature. The series' perspective is woman's, but the action is as violent as any man would require. The series' main axis, however, remains moral, as befits the Swedes.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another gripping investigation... June 16 2012
By Raven - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The latest instalment in Asa Larsson's 'Rebecka Martinsson' series and to my mind, her best to date. Rebecka has seemingly made a full recovery from the horrific attack of the previous book and after her release from the psychiatric unit, finds herself embroiled in another murder investigation with the wonderful female detective Anna-Maria Mella. This is where Larsson excels in her characterisation that portrays Rebecka as an outwardly strong but essentially damaged woman and Anna-Maria, who witnesses so much horror in her day job, as an incredibly grounded and centred character, and who acts as a perfect foil to Rebecka's polar opposite characteristics. The interplay and deep-seated respect and affection between them is even more prevalent in this plot as they work together to uncover some insidious goings on within an extremely influential yet corrupt mining corporation that leads to greed and murder. I think this book is the closest in context that I've read to say 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' or 'The Killing' where the more socio-political plot is given centre stage and I did find the detail regarding the corruption of big business in Third World countries extremely interesting. Obviously this was running parallel with the murder investigation and the strange trinity of the murdered woman, her brother and his friend- the figures at the forefront of the mining corporation- and their interaction and relationships with each other which was equally compelling. An accomplished and highly readable thriller from Larsson who just gets better with every book...
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars worth the effort Jan. 15 2011
By Lyn Alexander - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have not read earlier titles by Larsson, but I will.

As a police procedural, hmmm. Not really a thriller. As a psychological novel, The Black Path is a fine unravelling of characters. So many characters, in fact, that I had huge trouble keeping them clear in my mind. As a work of fiction, the language is gorgeous, the images beautifully, even poetically expressed. I give full credit to Marlaine Delargy for a superb translation, with only occasional, subtle slips of idiom. The plot is strong, the characters are fully realised and well defined.

Then why four stars? I take a deep breath. Here goes. From page one I was drawn into the internal voice of the protagonist - I think she is the protagonist - Rebecka Martinsson, just recovering from a severely debilitating psychosis. Next, I am literally in the pants of somebody named Leif Pudas. Okay, a new voice, I see it from his eyes, very interesting. He finds a dead body in a fishing hut on a frozen lake. Then comes Inspector Anna-Maria Mella - Can this actually be the protagonist? She is in charge of investigating the mysterious corpse, setting off our police procedural. I am becoming a little worried, being pulled inside the heads of these three characters, one leaping upon the next in quick succession.

It gets more confusing. There is a Lapp child, Ester, who seems not to be entirely present in her own head; there is somebody named Sven-Erik Stålnacke (turns out he is a repeat character in this series), there is a whole family of international high-rollers, each with his/her own fully developed voice, there is even the corpse herself, from inside her head, told fully in flashbacks with flashbacks. Toward the end we even get a brief look into the murderer's head as he is going about committing the original murder -- It goes on, abruptly switching not only inside the heads of many characters, but switching without warning from the present into endless flashbacks: and here's another kicker: the present is written in the past tense, and the flashbacks are written in the present tense. You've got to learn the author's protocol right from the start.

Look. This is a novel well worth reading for the beautiful flow of language, for the fascinating characters and, in the end, for the devastating story. You just have to work it out. You have to concentrate. It's worth the effort. I would request the author to provide a dramatis personae at the start of each novel, just to keep the characters clear as we read.

Go for it. Good luck.
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