If you like a crime novel where you know what happens from the outset (and then you rewind to unravel the story), you’ll enjoy Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito.
The cover proclaims Quicksand‘s status as the 2016 winner of Swedish Crime Novel of the Year, although strictly speaking it’s more courtroom drama than crime. The story revolves around Maja Norberg, who has spent nine months in jail awaiting trial for a shooting in her school. Among those killed were her boyfriend and her best friend. Maja was holding a gun.
The characters in the story are for the most part privileged and wealthy and for that reason, the shooting is the subject of intense worldwide media and public interest. Maja is represented as both a demonised victim and a cold-blooded killer.
People say that all humans are of equal worth. That’s what you say because you are polite, well-bred and maybe have a master’s degree, but that doesn’t make it true. In reality, everyone knows that people have different value. That’s why if a plane crashes near Indonesia and four hundred people die, the news coverage is doubled if there was a Swede on the plane. One pathetic, sweaty little sex-tourist Swede is worth twice as much as four hundred Indonesians.
I draw attention to this paragraph because I was reading Quicksand as the cave rescue of the Thai soccer team was underway. I watched the rescue with some nagging thoughts. There was no question that an attempt to rescue the boys be made. It is clear why the story attracted world interest and world support. The rescue mission was necessarily resource-intensive and the co-operation between countries to make it happen was incredible. But I have trouble with this – children being bombed in Syria. Children in detention in Australia. Children living in famine in East Africa. Imagine if the same resources, thinking and co-operation went into these problems? I know ongoing situations are different to the Thai soccer team. I know there is not a single answer. And I know it’s ludicrous that I’m sitting in a comfortable, safe place blogging about books.. But those were the thoughts I was having as the cave rescue started and I finished Quicksand.
So to the book – on the downside, I thought it was a hundred pages too long, and the initial courtroom scenes were too drawn-out. I was waiting for twists and turns but instead got a handful of revelations – interesting but not as punchy as I was anticipating. As mentioned, the story teases out the dicey media role in school shootings and Giolito did this well. Equally, Maja’s voice was authentic and believable, striking a balance between a teenage contempt and uncertainty.
Out in the lawyers’ waiting room, where we were sitting before we came in, Pancake told me that people have been queuing to get a seat in the courtroom. ‘Just like a concert,’ he declared, almost proudly. Sander looked like he wanted to deck him…. They love to hate me. They hate everything about me. Just like a concert? It seems highly unlikely that Pancake has ever been in the vicinity of live music that doesn’t belong in the nerd category. If I had to guess, he listens to the classic rock channel and sings along to the ads for the perfect family car.
2.5/5 Held my interest but didn’t quite meet my expectations.
As part of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, I’m comparing the Belfast summer and Melburnian winter. The results for the day I finished this book (July 12): Belfast 13°-19° and Melbourne 5°-13°.