Sun Storm by Åsa Larsson is the first Rebecka Martinsson novel. Rebecka is a tax lawyer in Stockholm who returns to Kiruna, her hometown in northern Sweden for the first time in ten years when her childhood friend Sanna asks her for help after her brother Viktor is murdered. Viktor is a charismatic religious figure who claimed to come back to life after a traffic accident, and his church monopolizes on his fame to build a massive building for a flock of 2,000, which is an impressive size for a town the size of Kiruna.
First off, the main asset of the book is the interesting heroine, Rebecka Martinsson. Yes, professionally she lives in her head and in her small office, drafting memoranda, but it doesn’t prevent her from jumping into a criminal investigation. The novel jumps between the investigation into Viktor’s murder and Rebecka’s years growing up in the Church of the Source of All Our Strength. I won’t reveal more of her backstory here, but suffice it to say that it’s an interesting one. As the novel progresses, we see more of her gritty side as well, which is refreshing. Finally, it’s great to have a heroine who’s smart and not just lucky.
The advantage of having a main character who specializes in tax law is that she can readily follow the money to find out what’s going on with the church. It’s not an overly complicated conspiracy or cover-up in which the church is engaged, and I don’t think I’m giving anything away by mentioning that the Church is involved in tax improprieties. Such a large church, ledby three pastors, in such a flashy building is obviously an enterprise flush with cash.
Finally, the setting of the story in the northern reaches of Sweden make for a nice switch from lots of urban mysteries and thrillers that I read. There are cozy moments in Rebecka’s grandparents’ home and hunting cabin, as she spends time with Sanna’s children and her northern neighbor/ friend of her deceased grandparents Sivving. It’s an interesting place for a respite for a reader from the northern Midwest of the United States.
I’m looking forward to reading more books in this series, and I’ve heard good things about them from Keishon at Avid Mystery Reader, Sarah at Crimepieces, Maxine at Petrona, and Margot at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist.
SUN STORM by Åsa Larsson
Translated by Marlaine Delargy
Also published as: The Savage Altar
Publication date: April 25, 2006
Finalist 2007 International Dagger Award
Winner of Sweden’s Best First Crime Novel Award