Synopses & Reviews
On the floor of a church in northern Sweden, the body of a man lies mutilated and defiled and in the night sky, the aurora borealis dances as the snow begins to fall....So begins Åsa Larsson's spellbinding thriller, winner of Sweden's Best First Crime Novel Award and an international literary sensation.
Rebecka Martinsson is heading home to Kiruna, the town she'd left in disgrace years before. A Stockholm attorney, Rebecka has a good reason to return: her friend Sanna, whose brother has been horrifically murdered in the revivalist church his charisma helped create. Beautiful and fragile, Sanna needs someone like Rebecka to remove the shadow of guilt that is engulfing her, to forestall an ambitious prosecutor and a dogged policewoman. But to help her friend, and to find the real killer of a man she once adored and is now not sure she ever knew, Rebecka must relive the darkness she left behind in Kiruna, delve into a sordid conspiracy of deceit, and confront a killer whose motives are dark, wrenching, and impossible to guess.
"At the start of Larsson's solid procedural debut, neurotic, troubled Sanna Strandgrd discovers the brutally butchered body of her brother, Viktor, on the floor of the church he founded in Kiruna, a provincial town in the north of Sweden. Sanna turns to her childhood friend, Rebecka Martinsson, a tax attorney in Stockholm, for emotional support and legal assistance when Sanna is charged with her brother's murder. While the local police investigate, led by refreshingly down-to-earth Insp. Anna-Maria Mella, Martinsson starts digging into the case as well as her own past connection with the victim and his church. Potential motives for Strandgrd's murder range from the church's business dealings to sexual intrigue, but the focus is on Martinsson's anger and frustration at being sucked back into her own past. The story builds to a thrillerlike ending, though Larsson introduces far more characters than she needs or can handle. The book won Sweden's Best First Crime Novel award." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Larsson depicts her characters with mordant wit and describes their village with richly atmospheric details. A flurry of clues, however, fails to conceal familiar, uncomplicated and predictable plotting." Kirkus Reviews
"Impressive....[A] sure-handed thriller from a talented first novelist." Booklist
"For those who eschew exotic travel in favor of the familiar hammock, there's nothing better than a well-written and well-translated story from some place you'll probably never visit. Sun Storm is that story and more." Rocky Mountain News
When a body is discovered in her hometown, a young Swedish lawyer is called back home, only to become traped in a perilous web of betrayal, suspicion, religious fanaticism, and death, in a suspense novel set against the backdrop of northern Sweden. Reprint.
About the Author
Asa Larsson was born in Kiruna, Sweden, in 1966. She studied in Uppsala and lived for some years in Stockholm, but now prefers the rural life with her husband, two children and several chickens. A former tax lawyer, she now writes full time. Dell will publish her next novel, the award-winning The Blood Spilt, in Spring 2007.
Reading Group Guide
An international literary sensation and winner of Swedens Best First Crime Novel Award, Sun Storm
opens with a chilling scene: the mutilated body of a man lies on the floor of a rural church; through the windows, the Aurora Borealis twists in the night sky, evoking the image of a dragon. As life slips away from Viktor, he remembers the first time he died, years ago, when he was just a child.
From these compelling beginnings, Asa Larsson spins an intense and shocking mystery. Racing to solve the crime is Rebecka Martinsson, a Stockholm attorney with painful ties to Viktors church. But to find the real killer, Rebecka must face her brutal past and confront the religious leaders who betrayed her trust.
With rapid-fire pacing, Sun Storm raises provocative questions about power, faith, and justice. The questions and discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your reading of Asa Larssons Sun Storm. We hope they enrich your experience of this haunting thriller.
1. Discuss the lines of poetry that form the novels epigraph. What do they say about the nature of evil? Which of the novel's characters give voice to the sinister intentions in the epigraph?
2. How does the title reflect Rebeckas experience with danger? How do natural phenomena, from the sun storms that Sanna discusses to the February snows, shape the novels tone?
3. How did you interpret Viktors belief that he had died in an accident when he was younger? What did the event signify to him? Discuss the most dangerous situations you have ever experienced. What led to your survival? How did you view the world afterward?
4. What is the effect of the novels structure, unfolding in scenes rather than longer, numbered chapters, over the course of seven days? How did you respond to the lines that open each day, taken from the account of creation in the Book of Genesis? As the week progresses in Sun Storm, which characters create order out of chaos?
5. Whom did you originally suspect of murdering Viktor? Did you ever believe that Sanna could have done it? How did Rebeckas feelings toward her shift throughout the week? What convinces Rebecka to take Sannas case?
6. What are the dynamics between Sven-Erik and Anna-Maria? What strengths and vulnerabilities does each one possess? Will they ever become as hardened as Carl von Post, or is his personality due to something other than the grisly nature of their work? What management styles are presented in von Post and Mans Wenngren?
7. What were your impressions of The Source of All Our Strength? What was the architecture of the Crystal Church designed to evoke? How did you react to Rebeckas discoveries about the churchs finances?
8. Discuss the balance between civil liberties and public safety in cases such as Curt Backstroms. How should his case have been handled? What would have ensured that he took his medication?
9. What do you think of the statement of the duty doctor at the psychiatric unit in Gallivare who tells Anna-Maria, “Weak people are often drawn to the church. And people who want power over weak people are also drawn there”?
10. How do women fare in Sannas church? Does the town of Kiruna seem to foster progressive attitudes toward women? How does Sannas mother, Kristina, resolve her despair?
11. What is the effect of the novels timeline, woven with flashbacks? What did you imagine to be the painful secret in Rebeckas past? How were memories woven with the various dreams presented in Sun Storm?
12. Why did the church favor Thomas and oust Rebecka? What was the source of Thomass allure?
13. What is your understanding of Sannas molestation fears? Where does the guilt reside? What scars do she and her daughters bear?
14. What distinctions do you imagine there were between the way Sanna and Viktor were raised? Do you attribute her personality to nurture or nature? How were both siblings affected by their parents behavior?
15. What makes the last scene appropriate for the novels closing passages? What cycles of life has Anna-Maria experienced, leading up to the seventh day?
16. Discuss your own experiences with returning to your childhood town or home. What memories anchor you to a particular place?