Review: Asa Larsson – The Second Deadly Sin

Asa Larsson’s books encapsulate everything that is great about Scandinavian crime fiction: they have a strong sense of place Second-Deadly-Sin-2-130x200combined with well-developed plots and interesting characters. That said, I’ve found the series featuring lawyer Rebecka Martinsson to be slightly patchy, not helped by the fact that the books have been translated out-of-order. The last novel to be published in the UK, The Black Path, was disappointing, principally because we lost that sense of a close knit community tying to protect itself from evil within. This is, thankfully, back in The Second Deadly Sin although, once again, I found the slightly over-the-top ending marred what was an interesting narrative.

In northern Sweden, hunters gather to shoot a wounded bear circling its community. Inside its stomach they find the remains of a human hand. In nearby Kiruna, a woman is found murdered in her bed with the word ‘whore’ daubed above her. Her grandson, Marcus, is traumatised by events and no-one is prepared to take on the responsibility of looking after him. Rebecka is assigned as prosecutor to the case, which is hampered by the refusal of the insular community to give up its secrets. But the key to the investigation is a crime that took place decades earlier.

The split narrative was one the most interesting aspects of this book. Both the modern-day murder investigation and the early twentieth doomed romance were depicted equally well. I became quite enamoured of the story of the young school teacher who falls in love with the local mine owner, despite it being clear from the beginning that it would end badly. The present day investigation worked best when Larsson was teasing out the complexities of relationships fraught with past disappointments. The actual resolution was less satisfying but that could have been because of the sheer pointlessness of it all.

I was looking forward to reading this book and overall enjoyed being taken back into the closed community of northern Sweden. It’s still a ‘must read’ series for me and the novel’s ending hints at new directions for Rebecka which should shake up future books a little.

Thanks to MacLehose Press for my copy. The translation is by Laurie Thompson

15 thoughts on “Review: Asa Larsson – The Second Deadly Sin

  1. I’ve heard wonderful things by Assa Larson, but, as it also happens in Spain, translating the series on a whim rather than in the order they were written can make reading a torture. I had no idea the main character was a woman and least of it, a lawyer. I will try to buy the first one in the series, if that’s possible! Thanks 🙂


    1. Hi Elena. Welcome to the blog and thanks for dropping by and commenting. I actually think you can read this series in any order but, that said, The Savage Altar is one of the very best from this writer.


      1. My pleasure. I have been looking for crime fiction review blogs written by women and dealing with female authors and female main characters, so yours is such a finding!


  2. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – An excellent review, for which thanks. This is one of my favourite series despite the endings to some of the stories. I really do like the way Larsson explores characters’ complexities, and I really like Rebecka Martinsson as a character. I think too that Larsson does a very effective job working with two time periods (she did that in Until Thy Wrath be Past too). THis is one of those series, at least to me, that may have its flaws, but is still really compelling.


  3. Kathy D.

    I like this series, too, especially the protagonist Rebecka Martinsson. That said, I was dismayed at the over-the-top endings, too, especially the brutality against the main character, and then one humdinger of an ending with global murders, etc. Way off the charts for this reader. Not realistic.

    Then I read Until Thy Wrath Be Past, a great book successfully meshing two time periods. I’m fussy about this plot device, and don’t think too many writers succeed at this, but Larsson did here. This was a top read for the year for me in 2012.

    I’m looking forwarding to reading the newer one, but dismayed to learn of the overdone ending (sigh).


  4. Keishon

    Hi Sarah,

    I agree with you in that Asa Larsson is a must read as she exemplifies much of what I love about Scandinavian crime fiction. We’ll have to disagree about this book as I found not only the ending OTT but that the WW1 storyline to be less compelling with the doomed schoolteacher but I did appreciate the author going back to discuss the origins in Kiruna being a booming mining town. I placed more value and emphasis on story development and how engaged I was with the story over character development in this instance. Bottom line is that it didn’t tick as many boxes as it did yours and Bernadette but that’s what makes this community interesting is seeing all the different reactions to the same book.


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  6. Pingback: The Second Deadly Sin by by Åsa Larsson | Ms. Wordopolis Reads

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