Book Review: Åsa Larsson’s The Black Path

Posted December 23, 2014 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Åsa Larsson’s The Black Path

The Black Path

in eBook edition on July 29, 2008 and has 384 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon., Barnes & NobleKobo.

Third in the Rebecka Martinsson mystery series set in the country in Sweden and revolving around a tax lawyer who cracked up.

The Black Path was nominated in 2009 for a Barry Award for Best Paperback Original.

My Take

Whoa, this one is CRITICAL. Read this.

Try to read this as soon after The Blood Spilt, 2, as possible. It’ll help with remembering as Larsson pulls events at the end of The Blood Spilt right in at the start of The Black Path. And do not skip ahead to Until Thy Wrath Be Past, 4, and The Second Deadly Sin, 5.

Most of the time it’s just the little things that hit you odd when you read out of sequence. It’s not like that in The Black Path. Too much happens in here including explaining why there is such an emphasis on Rebecka’s having spent time in an asylum, how she became enmeshed in the prosecutor’s office in Kiruna, and finally, something comes of Rebecka’s interest in Måns, and vice versa. It’s not believable, but at least I’m out of my misery in wondering what and when is something going to happen!

“…if everybody’s dodgy, in the end nobody’s dodgy, somehow.”

This “love” interest is still a mystery to me. And probably one of Larsson’s few weak points. It’s all tell, and an extremely weak one. Most of the books have been of Rebecka whining on, maybe being interested in Måns; it’s not until now that we get more than a hint. As for Måns’ interest. Tell me more than these little, bitty grade school snippets.

One of the things I like about Larsson is her truth. Her memories of childhood and how she retains those impressions. I love her insight into the old ladies buying her [Rebecka as a child] ice creams! Her perspective on therapists and their stupid questions. The smells and joys of a toddler. That truth she states about journalists. Yeah, more interested in a good sound bite than truth. And isn’t that a sad state of affairs in the news world?

We do get more background on Rebecka about her dad, her parents’ marriage and their deaths, and its effect on Rebecka as a child. What happened to her after she was kicked out of the church in Sun Storm, 1. How she ended up living with Grandmother. How she gets her job in Kiruna — Bjönfot knows just what to say to entice her in. It’s too much fun to read of Rebecka getting down to work; how she’s putting everyone off, lol. How it’s pulling Bjönfot in.

We also learn more about Anna-Marie and Sven-Erik. This was one of those conundrums for me, where I wish I hadn’t read ahead. Read this series in its proper order, and you won’t find your head spinning in frustration as you try to reconcile events you’ve read that haven’t happened yet!

In The Black Path, Larsson takes us in backwards as the team struggles to learn who the murder victim is. It takes everyone to start down this path, to rip up the quirky clues that paint an unlikely picture of this odd death with weird injuries, and it’s fascinating to read along as Larsson reveals the meaning of those clues. They all make sense, and I’d never have got a single one.

Larsson winds off onto a tangential path when we delve into Kallis and the Wattrangs. It’s all PR perfect until we begin to slip under their mantle of achievement. It’s a careful path Larsson treads as she makes us fall in like with Mauri. He’s come from a horrible background and has struggled all his life to feel of any worth. It breaks your heart what he had to go through as a child and then a young man. And it’s a ping-pong of memory and today. Rest assured, however, lol, it’s only frustrating in that Larsson takes so bloody long to finally reveal it all.

It amazes me how well Larsson gets me caring for the bad guys. Even as you realize that they do deserve it, you’re crying a little inside at the waste of it. Although, I do not understand why Mauri is so attracted to Inna. I’d’a thought he was too smart for that.

I completely get where Mauri is coming from with regards to the African situation. You can’t trust the third-world African governments at all. But then I’m conflicted by the other side of it. What that money is also helping to destroy.

I love Ester’s story. Hmmm, I do feel a need to explain that. I love the artist side of it even as I deplore how poorly her mother took care of her and the rest of the family. But I do want to see Ester’s artwork, I want to encourage her to continue on with it, to take advantage of those opportunities! And then I have to wonder if she “saw” how it would all turn out. Why didn’t she say something to Mikael, if not Mauri?

As depressing as Larsson’s situations are in her stories, they’re also so very upbeat, warm, and cozy. I know, it’s a weird combination. It’s the old-fashioned of Grandmother’s house, of other people’s homes, of pastries or cookies on a plate that takes me back to my own grandmother. It’s the family-style caring of the people around her. It’s an odd contrast that plays against the horror of the killers, the morally bankrupt.

“I feel fine, I say to myself. This is what it’s like to feel fine.”

The Story

It’s Patient Rebecka Martinsson in a secure unit due to a severe psychosis, and a frozen stiff huddling under a blanket in an ark, but only one is coming out of it.

The Characters

Rebecka Martinsson was severely traumatized in The Blood Spilt, and is slowly coming back to life, but not the same one as a lawyer in a big firm in Stockholm. She shares an inheritance, her grandmother’s house in Kurravaara, with her Uncle Affe. Inga-Britt is Affe’s wife. Jussi was the dog of her childhood. Sivving is Rebecka’s neighbor in Kiruna; he was Theresia Martinsson‘s friend. Bella is his dog. Lena is his married daughter; his wife, Maj-Lis, is dead.

The police in Kiruna…
Inspector Anna-Maria Mella is partnered up on the job with Sven-Erik Stålnacke (he’s Valfrid Stålnacke’s boy); off the job, the easygoing, somewhat thoughtless Robert is her partner. Together they have four kids: Marcus, Jenny, Petter, and Gustav is the youngest. Hanna is Marcus’ girlfriend. Sven-Erik’s daughter lives in Luleå with her family, and he still hasn’t replaced his missing cat, Manne, who has been missing for 18 months. Although, at one point Larsson says that Manne is dead. Hjördis is his ex-wife. Inspector Fred “Fredde” Olsson is their computer expert and good at physical social networking. Inspector Tommy Rantakyrö is another member of the team.

Lars Pohjanen is the medical examiner who had the throat cancer operation. Anna Granlund is his very loyal technician. Inspector Krister Eriksson is a dog handler; Tintin is one of his tracker dogs.

Chief Prosecutor Alf Bjönfot wants Rebecka to work for him, and I mean he WANTS her. He’s seeing all that potential for financial crime. Margareta Huuva is his boss and the head of chambers. Gudrun Haapalahti is with the main office, and she’s stopped sending anyone to Kiruna. What’s the point? All the work is already done.

Northern Explore Ltd.…

…is part of Kallis Mining owned by Mauri Kallis, a wunderkind; he pulled himself up by his own bootstraps, wanting to do good in the world. Even as he falls into those corporate-third-world traps. He’s married up. Way up. Ebba von Uhr is from a noble family and now breaks Arabians; Echnaton is one of them. They have two sons: Magnus and Carl. Honorine “Inna” Wattrang is the head of information for Northern. Jacob “Diddi” Wattrang is her brother and Mauri’s first friend. Ulrika is Diddi’s wife, and they have a seven-month-old son, Philip. The three of them live in individual houses on the Regla estate. Mikael Wiik is the head of security who’s come up through Special Protection Unit, then private security. Sven Israelsson is on the board; he’s also the boss at SGAB.

Ester, Mauri’s psychic half-sister, has a gift for foretelling. Britta Kallis is his nutjob of a mother. Ester’s “real” parents were trying to make it as reindeer breeders, but her Sami mother was an artist who became too lost in her work. Antte was their birth son. Bengt was a bullying little boy at school. Musta and Sampo were the dogs; Herkules was the neighbor’s dog. Marit is her mother’s sister, always with the lousy choices in men. Jan-Åke is just the latest.

Nils Gunnarsson is the nuthouse consultant where Britta is incarcerated. Ajay Rani is supposedly Ester’s father.

Businessmen Mauri is working on or with…
Gerhart Sneyers owns mining and oil companies and is the chairman of African Mining Trust, an association of foreign mine owners in Africa. He’s also on the blacklist. Quebec Invest will be the downfall. Heinrich Koch is vp of Gems and Minerals Ltd; Paul Lasker and Viktor Innitzer owned mines in Uganda; and, former general Helmuth Stieff are the dinner guests.

Museveni is the current president of Zimbabwe. Kadaga, Museveni’s cousin, was the general of the army. Mrs. Florence Kwesiga is the Minster for Industry in Uganda. Museveni’s current general is Joseph Muinde. Pastor Kindu was a good man.

Mauri at school…
Anders was a student neighbor; Håkan and Mattias are roommates. Mauri’s foster parents were small-time cons. Jocke is his brutal, psychotic foster brother.

…is a lake popular with ice fishermen. Leif Pudas must’a been a bit drunk that night. An ark is a shelter on the ice for ice fishermen. Persson’s ark is in better shape than Pudas’, although it has one more occupant than Pudas thought. Abisko is a tourist station near the lake. Riksgränsen is a ski resort the law firm is coming up to visit.


Meijer & Ditzinger…
…is the law firm where Rebecka worked. Måns Wenngren used to be Rebecka’s boss at the law firm. I’m not getting why Rebecka is attracted to him. He sounds like an absolute jerk. Maria Taube is a friend and was a colleague who still keeps in touch with Rebecka. Sonja Berg was the secretary at Meijer & Ditzinger. Malin Norell deals with company law and would like to be with Måns.

Johan is one of the nurses at St. Göran’s hospital.

Gunilla Petrini is the curator at the Color Factor and a board member of the national art council with some influence at the Idun Lovén Art School.

Benny is a local locksmith. Malou von Sivers is a TV show interviewer. Sofia Fuensanta Cuervo is Diddi’s first downfall. John McNamara wears a summer overcoat. Per-Erik Seppälä is a journalist with a local station with a tidbit of news for Anna-Marie. Örjan Bylund had been a journalist with Norrländska Socialdemokraten. His wife, Airis, loves cats. Boxer is one of her cat’s kittens. Dr. Erlander helped bypass the police. Axel is Airis’ grandchild who has Örjan’s computer. Tieva is Airis’ mother. Ecke and Malte Gabrielsson are some of Inna’s many “friends”. Douglas Morgan is a former paratrooper and a former mercenary with Blackwater, with a little problem.

The Cover and Title

I think the cover is Ester as she races down the trail through the trees with the horizontal lines representing the speed with which she moves as well as the scratches she accumulates. I do like the red in Larsson’s name. A blood red.

The title is the trail that Ester follows, The Black Path to salvation. It’s one that comes in many forms.