I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like The Crow Girl. I can’t decide if it was a work of high avant garde, wherein our expectations are subverted (no satisfying ending, double and triple tricks from unreliable narrators, perhaps making a comment on the overuse of unreliable narrators?). Or if it’s just a poorly written book that, for whatever reason, is getting a lot of good reviews. But for my money, it’s a badly paced book, rife with clues but short on substance, that substitutes mentioning substantial issues for dealing with substantial issues. Rather than let us see interesting moments — a narrator separating from her spouse — we just hear about it later, in a much less interesting conversation.
Five years after Bob Dylan, they were looking for a new Bob Dylan. And with Stieg Larsson dead, everyone would like for there to be another one. But the author duo who goes by Erik Axl Sund don’t even seem to understand how to plot a book, let alone make one interesting.
I guess The Crow Girl is about a bad cop, a detective whose detective skills are just bad.
Like a Will Farrell character, he’s confident, but resplendent in ineptness. Is that what the authors were going for? I don’t know. Usually, authorial intent is evident, but poorly handled or well-handled sub-par detective, one can’t tell in The Crow Girl. But the detective in the book, Jeanette Kihlberg, is dogged in her pursuit where she has literally no clues. The only police work she does is to find similar crimes and assume that those people probably did the crime she was investigating. I was almost three hundred pages in when Jeanette did something that no human would do— a scene totally built for the plot with absolutely no basis in any kind of reality, even the reality that the book had set up. A boy was kidnapped, his companion, a friend of his mother’s, is found, dazed, maybe drugged. The hunt for the boy is ongoing, everyone working overtime. However, several hours later, no one has talked to the woman who was with the kid when he disappeared. I make no claim on knowing anything about being a detective, but how could no one think that was fishy? And why didn’t Jeanette suspect anything?
One of my least favorite mystery cliches is when, because there are no clues, the dogged investigator makes the perfect criminal get angry and come after them. This happens very early on in The Crow Girl, early enough that I don’t even think it’s a spoiler to mention it.
This is a sign of bad plotting, pacing, and execution.
There’s a sort of faux-depth to the book where they mention a lot of horrible things— child sex trafficking is mentioned a lot— but without any kind of real insight into what such things would actually mean to someone. Much in the way of complicated subject matter is introduced, but dealt with like it was a very special episode of Home Improvement, not bad exactly, but by necessity simplified. And it’s an 800-page book! They had plenty of time to go into it.
I do give the authors a little bit of credit.
They reference Stieg Larsson as a “great man,” even if it is through the eyes of a group of Germans “walking in his footsteps.” So it seems like the duo Erik Axl Sund are aware that they are simply aping another, better writer’s work. And Larson did it so much better, weaving the idea of history and generations into his book seamlessly in a way that didn’t scream Symbol with each further mention. Sund seems to be shouting at his readers, “This is important!”
For God’s sakes, don’t waste your time with The Crow Girl. Although do check out the Sprocketsesque author photo.