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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



The Black Path

by
Åsa Larsson


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Black Path



Title: The Black Path
Author: Åsa Larsson
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 384 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: The Black Path - US
The Black Path - UK
The Black Path - Canada
Der schwarze Steg - Deutschland
  • Swedish title: Svart stig
  • Translated by Marlaine Delargy
  • The third volume in a projected six-part series

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Our Assessment:

B : decent police procedural, but an awful lot of background-filler material

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Svenska Dagbladet . 22/8/2006 Lina Sjöberg
The Washington Post . 31/8/2008 Richard Lipez


  From the Reviews:
  • "Unfortunately, Larsson's narrative meanders listlessly through a Swedish mining company's machinations, some in Europe, some in Africa, and doesn't gather a lot of steam. However, descriptions of a murderous children's army in Uganda stick in the memory long after Larsson's adult characters blur out." - Richard Lipez, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Several of the main characters in The Black Path appeared in Larsson's previous two mysteries in the series, but the quick recap of what happened to them -- especially lawyer Rebecka Martinsson -- are adequate for the purposes of this book, which stands readily enough on its own as a police procedural.
       The investigators on the case are family-woman Anna-Maria Mella and Sven-Erik Stålnacke, called out on a cold night in northern Sweden when a frozen body is discovered. The woman is soon identified as Inna Wattrang, head of information for a high-flying company called Kallis Mining, but the peculiar way she was murdered leave many questions open.
       Rebecka Martinsson is also working in the area now, having more or less overcome the horrific things she lived through. She resigned her corporate law position and is now a paper-pushing bureaucrat, but she likes losing herself in her work, and when Anna-Maria calls on her for help she's glad to do all the necessary research, helping to put the pieces together of the convoluted crime.
       Kallis Mining has their fingers across the globe, in what is clearly a pretty rough and tumble business. But young Mauri Kallis has always had a knack for these sorts of things -- as Larsson goes to considerable lengths to explain.
       Larsson weaves a tale of international intrigue and conspiracies along with murder; along the way she also presents a lot of the background of most of those involved. A lot of background.
       There are a lot of lonely people here, and Anna-Maria seems the only one with a truly stable sort of family life. Many of their others are alone -- and lonely --, with, at best, some pets to tide them over (there's a lot of talk about cats and dogs). Several come from terrible circumstances, taken into care as children, and Larsson harps on that a lot as well. There's something to be said for explaining the circumstances of the various actors leading up to where everything goes so wrong, but there are an awful lot of characters to deal with here, and there's an awful lot of background material that's heaped on here.
       Given the finale Larsson unleashes, the build-up is perhaps understandable, but it still doesn't work all that well. It's hard to remain interested in so many characters, especially as the narrative moves away so often from the present-day investigation.
       In many ways this is also a book about business ethics, and the Scandinavian ideals -- such as Rebecka 'explaining' about how, for example, setting up a mine in Uganda changes the company fundamentally: "You have an employer's responsibility. You become ... how shall I put it ... you become part of a society, of the country where you're starting your business" -- must sound odd to MBA-educated capitalists to whom such notions of employer's responsibility are complete anathemas (yes, yes, even American business school graduates offer token acknowledgement of the necessity of integrating into the local scene, etc. but certainly not in the way that is meant here).
       A decent police-procedural, The Black Path is ultimately too unfocussed for long stretches. Larsson's comprehensive approach is simply overwhelming -- and practically swamps the murder-mysteries themselves.

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Links:

The Black Path: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swedish author Åsa Larsson was born in 1966.

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© 2008 the complete review

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