Beginning in a Stockholm city park where the abused body of a young boy is discovered. Detective Superintendent Jeanette Kihlberg heads the investigation, battling an apathetic prosecutor and a bureaucratic police force unwilling to devote resources to solving the murder of an immigrant child. But with the discovery of the mutilated corpses of two more children, it becomes clear that a serial killer is at large.
Child abuse is one of the disturbing themes here, and, like so much Nordic noir, it should be noted that this is not a book for the squeamish or for those who favour the cosier end of crime. The narrative slowly and surely exerts an inexorable grip; its multiple timeframes do not interrupt the unerring building of tension. And, as with the best of Scandinavian crime fiction, there is still room for an acute element of social commentary ... If you’re not fazed by the daunting length and unsparing gruesomeness of The Crow Girl, you will find it to be among the most wide-ranging and forceful Scandinavian crime novels you have encountered.
[The Crow Girl is] very likely to be the most disturbing book you’ll read all year ... There’s a fantastic twist in store, very well executed, and a successful conclusion for the complex web of evil Sund weaves over the course of the novel. His Sweden, too, is pitch perfect and the sheer over-the-top awfulness of it all is clearly recognised by the author ... But the level of abuse in The Crow Girl and the pace of its revelations are relentless. Sund’s story coils its way into ever darker places, with everything from cannibalism to the Holocaust making an appearance in a novel that stretches to almost 800 pages.
I’m a callused reader. There’s not much that bothers me. But I felt exhaustedly repulsed by The Crow Girl. The graphic depictions of sexual violence — much of it directed at children — kept piling up until I had to go for a run in the sun or race to the multiplex to watch Finding Dory, anything to dilute the nastiness ... The Crow Girl made me want to wash my eyes out with bleach before leaping off the nearest skyscraper.