I reread THE BLACK PATH last weekend. I did that because despite originally having read and reviewed it a while ago, it was one of those books that every time I spied it on a shelf, I was drawn to thinking about again. And I wanted to find out why.
At the time that I originally read it I reviewed it thus:
"THE BLACK PATH is the sort of book that you need to read with your preconceptions and expectations firmly locked in a drawer. Having not read the second book in the series yet, I know something happened to Rebecka in that book, but the details aren't important to understanding, from the start of THE BLACK PATH, that she has been through a traumatic experience and she's struggling back into normal life.
But one thing you will find with THE BLACK PATH is that Rebecka, or Anna-Maria or any of the other characters that either reoccur from earlier books, or step forward into the limelight in this book, won't necessarily remain as the focus of the book. This isn't a book that's specifically about a single person's journey through the events that lead up to a crime (perhaps with the exception of the victim herself), but a story about the swirling circumstances of lives lived. That's not to say that the book has an unfocused or messy feel to it, rather the opposite. But it does give the way the story unfolds a fascinating, sort of ephermeral feel to it, as the focus moves around, and the events that somebody - but not everybody - are involved in, all lead to a resolution.
I have to say, that for me, there was a strong sense of Swedish about this book. But this was a combination of things. The weather, the environment, the sensibility of the people, the way that the supernatural interwove with the mundane facts of life. The book also incorporates some glimpses into Sami culture which were absolutely fascinating.
As with the first of this series that I read, I still find Rebecka and Anna-Maria slightly offputting as characters. Don't know why, but they just are. Having said that, they are fascinating, and people I'm interested in and care about slightly from afar. There's some real skill in writing a story with characters like these that keeps you so involved. But I was also very taken with the lack of predictable styling of the book - I liked the way that the story evolved without the need to ensure series characters got their alloted page space."
I've realised now that the reason that the book continued to call to me is the other characters. Whilst in this review I talked about Anna-Maria and Rebecka (both interesting women in their own right - and second time around - I think I understand them just that little bit more), the victim Inna Wattrang, her brother Diddi and their business partner Mauri Kallis - their families and their motivations are the ones that I wanted to look at again, along with Anna-Maria's partner Sven-Erik, even Boxer the kitten. Most of all revisiting all of these people I'm reminded that there's nothing black and white about anything. Victims aren't perfect, villains aren't simply evil, people do things which others aren't ever going to understand. Perhaps they are doing things they don't even understand themselves. But THE BLACK PATH ticks all the boxes for what makes a very good psychological thriller, with strong, flawed, believable characters in a very good plot.