Review: The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund

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Publication: June 14th 2016
Publisher:  Knopf
Pages:  768 pages
Source: Bookmobile
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Horror, Psychological, Adult
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤⛤

If you asked me to describe this book in two words, it would be this: Fucked Up. While those two words definitely sum up certain parts of the novel, it doesn’t even begin to sum up the novel as a whole.

The Crow Girl follows Detective Jeanette Kihlberg who answers a call with her team about the discovery of a mummified, young immigrant boy. Facing conflicts with her superior officer, Kenneth Von Kwist, because the found boy was an illegal immigrant and unknown, Jeanette continues working on the case only for another body of a boy to be discovered. This causes Jeanette to come into contact with psychologist Sofia Zetterlund, who specializes in treating children who come from traumatic familial environments, which eventually results in the two women’s lives becoming interwoven as the deaths continue to rise.

This book had popped up a lot on my bookstagram feed (alongside Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song which I’ve begun reading) and I was curious about it from it’s mysterious cover, it’s interesting title (I love crows and ravens), and the fact that it was another Swedish crime novel published into English. I loved Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and own the whole series though I’ve only read the first book. I was curious if this novel would be similar in any way, and if I’d enjoy it as much.

The Crow Girl can probably best be described as an amalgam of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, True Detective, and House of Leaves. It deal with the same topics of violence against women and child abuse like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and True Detective, and while the novel didn’t have any supernatural elements like House of Leaves, I felt the same feeling of horror when I was reading it.

Unlike many mystery novels and thrillers, The Crow Girl doesn’t shy away from it’s subject matter and is incredibly descriptive about the sexual abuse that the victims and some characters recall in the novel (Just look at the original covers of the series). This makes the novel very difficult to read at times, and there were many instances where I felt sickened by what I was reading, but that’s the point of The Crow GirlThe Crow Girl forces it’s readers to acknowledge that while this is a fictional book, these horrific crimes are happening to privileged and unprivileged children in our real and daily life.

The Crow Girl is a beast of a book at 768 pages, but I was surprised to learn that it was originally published as three separate novels: The Crow Girl (2010), Hunger Fire (2011), Pythia’s Instructions (2012). When the novel made it’s way to English translation, publishers thought it would be better to publish the books in one volume as The Crow Girl which is separated into three parts. Personally, I can’t imagine reading these books separately, so much happens for the characters and between the different parts that they deserve to be in their own complete volume.

If you’ve read my past reviews on mysteries and thrillers, you know that I’m often disappointed because I usually end up predicting the plot twists and who the murderer is. This didn’t happen in The Crow Girl. Throughout the whole novel I was left shocked at every twist thrown my way. When I thought I had finally gotten something right, I was proven to be wrong again. After finishing the book, and with all the plot twists, I almost wanted start again so that I could point out where I was wrong the first time. I wanted to go back and see everything come together with new eyes. Sadly, I have many books to read and can’t reread 768 page novels repeatedly (no matter how much I want to).

It is so easy to become involved with the characters in this novel. I became so attached to Jeanette and Sofia and loved seeing them struggle and grow throughout the story. They’re separate narratives were perfect, and when they came together it was even more perfect. So often, characters rarely change (despite authors claims) from the beginning to end of a novel or series, you see the character at the end and they’re the same unchanged person from the beginning. But in The Crow Girl I could pick up Jeanette and Sofia from the end of the novel, place them with the women I was introduced to and see very different characters. The change and growth in the characters made me feel good, as if I was on the journey with them (and considering how addicted I was/am to this book I agree with it).

There are many words that can be used to describe this book. It’s disturbing, sickening, horrifying, addicting, and in the, end surprisingly beautiful. At the heart of it, The Crow Girl is a story about coming to terms with the past and cleansing and about questioning whether cleansing can be achieved to people who have experienced cyclical, historical violence.

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