Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

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.

Passing the time in jail, Maja thinks back to Christmas, when she ate three servings of rice pudding with strawberry sauce, and watched while her little sister searched her pudding for the almond.

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°.

7 responses

  1. Pingback: 20 Books of Summer (except that it’s Winter) | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

  2. i listened to this book on audio last year and think I liked it a bit better than you. That being said, I had a hard time remembering the specifics. Probably more about me than about the book. Ha! I concur with your thoughts about the Thai rescue. Wouldn’t it be nice if all children were safe? Sigh.

  3. I don’t think this is for me – I’m not a big reader of crime and the idea of extended courtroom scenes would be tough-going for me. But it sounds like it gives food for thought which is good! If it’s adapted for TV I’ll watch it 🙂

  4. This sounds very interesting but maybe not enough to add it to my groaning TBR piles. Especially at the length. I do like crime fiction but not courtroom drama so much.

  5. Haven’t read this one but really enjoy Scandavian crime fiction, though I couldn’t explain how that has become a thing. As for “And I know it’s ludicrous that I’m sitting in a comfortable, safe place blogging about books”, you know and I know that Literature is important, that ideas and their dissemination is important, that thinking is important, that there’s more to life than growing food and making stuff. What is ludicrous is that the people who do best are the ones who pass money from one person to another and skim a little off the top for themselves, ie. bankers.

    • I think Scandinavian crime fiction became an international thing when Girl With the Dragon Tattoo became a bestseller in English… I could be wrong about that though!
      And yes, you’re right about the various sectors of our ‘community’ (I use that word loosely) pulling their weight. Thinking about it, it’s the same at the micro-community level – it’s always the same people on local committees etc and the same ones not lifting a finger. After decades of this, I don’t know why it still surprises me.

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