Customer Reviews


93 Reviews
5 star:
 (30)
4 star:
 (37)
3 star:
 (15)
2 star:
 (9)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars absorbing and atmospheric
This novel begins dramatically, with the description of the final thoughts to go through the mind of a handsome and charismatic young preacher, Victor Strandgard, from Kiruna in the far north of Sweden. We then move to Stockholm, where we meet the novel's central character, Rebecka Martinsson, a driven and rather guarded young Stockholm lawyer. She is called back to...
Published on 6 Mar. 2011 by Sarah A. Brown

versus
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tighter and less rambling that some other Nordic crime writers
A mutilated body is found in a church in northern Sweden - and a lawyer is brought back to the place she once lived and her past amongst the leaders of the church.

This is a competent enough read with a tighter plotline than those of writers like Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo. However many of the elements have been done repeatedly in other crime novels making...
Published on 11 Dec. 2010 by Roman Clodia


‹ Previous | 1 210 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars absorbing and atmospheric, 6 Mar. 2011
By 
Sarah A. Brown (Cambridge) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Savage Altar (Paperback)
This novel begins dramatically, with the description of the final thoughts to go through the mind of a handsome and charismatic young preacher, Victor Strandgard, from Kiruna in the far north of Sweden. We then move to Stockholm, where we meet the novel's central character, Rebecka Martinsson, a driven and rather guarded young Stockholm lawyer. She is called back to Kiruna by her old friend, Sanna, the sister of the dead preacher, and a prime suspect in the murder enquiry.

There are really several mysteries in play here, as we turn the pages to find out, not just who killed Viktor, but what is the full story behind the highly successful church he was associated with, and why does Rebecka have such conflicting feelings about Sanna and her other former friends.

As a thriller, I thought this was good, but not great. But as a novel it had much to recommend it - intriguing and quite original characters who seemed to possess some convicingly human inconsistency and sometimes made me unsure how to respond to them - Rebecka's boss, for example. I'd certainly recommend this to anyone who enjoys the genre, and will probably go on to read more by Asa Larsson.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful Scandinavian chiller. Scary on a human scale, 4 July 2008
By 
Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Savage Altar (Paperback)
Scandinavian crime fiction has really taken off in recent years and it's wonderful that books like Savage Altar (previously published as Sun Storm) are being translated and brought to a world-wide audience. The genre as a whole specialises in claustrophobic, small-scale mysteries, often made all the more chilling because they involve relatively few people in isolated areas where either the sun don't shine or - possibly worse - the days never dim...

Savage Altar introduces Rebecka Martinsson, a young city lawyer who is dragged back to confront the ghosts of her emotional past in her rural home town when an ex-boyfriend (of sorts) is brutally murdered. Rebecka is a fragile achiever; clever but compelled to work far too hard to make up for her insecurity. She over-reacts to a friendly approach from her boss with spiky ferocity, and many of her relationships feature awkward conversations and painful silences, where old arguments and grudges confuse the protagonists.
We also meet an interesting detective, who happens to be eight months pregnant and desperately trying to go on maternity leave; Rebecka's spiritual grandfather (who is called Sivving - and there's a great joke attached to that name), the murdered man's sister (who is both not what she seems and exactly what she seems), a sinister evangelical church and its collection of overenthusiastic pastors, plus the usual pushy bureaucrat who wants the whole murder case wrapped up in no time flat.
Where Savage Altar stands head and shoulders above run of the mill thrillers is in the very human scale of the mystery and the past events which have interwoven to culminate in the death of one young man - and a very real threat to his sister (who looks like the prime suspect) and to Rebecka. Savage Altar is littered with beautifully observed interactions; often the most touching are between humans and animals where affection can be more easily expressed than with other real live people...

Savage Altar is easy to read, well plotted and beautifully described. I romped through it in a couple of days, eager to find out whodunnit (and why), but also eager to spend time with the protagonists in a starkly beautiful, dangerous landscape. If your tastes run to American-style serial-killer or police procedural thrillers then Savage Altar may not be to your taste, however; much of the menace is implied rather than related, blow by bloody blow.
I can also recommend the follow up, Blood Spilt, although you do need to read them in order to enjoy them fully. I will be looking out for more thrillers from Asa Larsson; these aren't perfect but they are more than good enough to drag me back for more.
8/10
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling story with some sly humour, 30 Oct. 2011
By 
E. A. Duns (devon UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Savage Altar (Rebecka Martinsson 1) (Paperback)
Must admit to being a fan of current Scandinavian writing, so took a chance on another unknown (to me) author in the genre.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the writing is excellent with never a dull moment, and this is surely a high quality translation.
I really liked the sly humour that helps to bring the characters to life, and at no point felt that this book owed anything to any other author, despite the almost obligatory 'Steig Larsson' reference on the cover...
Asa Larsson's got an original style and writes brilliantly, and I'll definitely be reading everything else she's done!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scary but thoughtful Scandi crime; the first in great series, 7 July 2008
By 
Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Savage Altar (Hardcover)
Scandinavian crime fiction has really taken off in recent years and it's wonderful that books like Savage Altar (previously published as Sun Storm) are being translated and brought to a world-wide audience. The genre as a whole specialises in claustrophobic, small-scale mysteries, often made all the more chilling because they involve relatively few people in isolated areas where either the sun don't shine or - possibly worse - the days never dim...

Savage Altar introduces Rebecka Martinsson, a young city lawyer who is dragged back to confront the ghosts of her emotional past in her rural home town when an ex-boyfriend (of sorts) is brutally murdered. Rebecka is a fragile achiever; clever but compelled to work far too hard to make up for her insecurity. She over-reacts to a friendly approach from her boss with spiky ferocity, and many of her relationships feature awkward conversations and painful silences, where old arguments and grudges confuse the protagonists.
We also meet an interesting detective, who happens to be eight months pregnant and desperately trying to go on maternity leave; Rebecka's spiritual grandfather (who is called Sivving - and there's a great joke attached to that name), the murdered man's sister (who is both not what she seems and exactly what she seems), a sinister evangelical church and its collection of overenthusiastic pastors, plus the usual pushy bureaucrat who wants the whole murder case wrapped up in no time flat.
Where Savage Altar stands head and shoulders above run of the mill thrillers is in the very human scale of the mystery and the past events which have interwoven to culminate in the death of one young man - and a very real threat to his sister (who looks like the prime suspect) and to Rebecka. Savage Altar is littered with beautifully observed interactions; often the most touching are between humans and animals where affection can be more easily expressed than with other real live people...

Savage Altar is easy to read, well plotted and beautifully described. I romped through it in a couple of days, eager to find out whodunnit (and why), but also eager to spend time with the protagonists in a starkly beautiful, dangerous landscape. If your tastes run to American-style serial-killer or police procedural thrillers then Savage Altar may not be to your taste, however; much of the menace is implied rather than related, blow by bloody blow.
I can also recommend the follow up, Blood Spilt, although you do need to read them in order to enjoy them fully. I will be looking out for more thrillers from Asa Larsson; these aren't perfect but they are more than good enough to drag me back for more.
8/10
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cult Crime, 24 Jun. 2013
This review is from: The Savage Altar (Rebecka Martinsson 1) (Paperback)
The latest in a long line of Nordic crime writing so I did fear that The Savage Altar would suffer by comparison. Luckily it had a lot of features which made it stand out - no cliche seedy male detective with personal problems but a heavily pregnant woman. The principal character, Rebecka Martinsson,is brought in by her friend Sanna Strandgard who has become the principal suspect, when her brother Viktor is murdered in the cult church The Source of All our Strength.

This doesn't feel like the Millennium Project or Henning Mamkell as there as the dramatis personae is huge and the actions are viewed very close-up. The main characters are well drawn and believable, and the plot moves forward at just the right pace; there are a lot of sub plots to occupy the reader and even the minor characters are rich in detail. My only criticism is that the cast is actually too large and I was constantly flipping back and forth trying to remember them all.

An interesting setting (the Arctic mining town of Kiruna) and the cult church congregation and officials was also a novel community to investigate.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tighter and less rambling that some other Nordic crime writers, 11 Dec. 2010
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Savage Altar (Paperback)
A mutilated body is found in a church in northern Sweden - and a lawyer is brought back to the place she once lived and her past amongst the leaders of the church.

This is a competent enough read with a tighter plotline than those of writers like Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo. However many of the elements have been done repeatedly in other crime novels making this definitely feel less than fresh.

The beginning is very strong, but the rest of the book doesn't manage to avoid crime cliché (sexual shenanigans and religious obsession) culminating in the final showdown as the police rush to arrest the culprit...

This isn't a bad read by any means but is far from original.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good Swedish mystery writer, 7 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Savage Altar (Paperback)
If you like the Wallander series by Henning Mankell, then you will like these books. Asa Larsson hasn't written as many novels as Mankell, and only a few have been translated into English. Set in Lapland, the feeling of living north of the Arctic Circle is very evocative. The story unfolds gradually, but the reader is gripped from the beginning.

I would have liked a short section of notes at the end of the book (as in the Millenium trilogy by Stieg Larsson), as I didn't understand all the references to some aspects of Swedish life. However, I will certainly read the second novel in this series and all the rest as they are translated into English.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to a new Swedish sleuth, 2 Jan. 2014
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Savage Altar (Rebecka Martinsson 1) (Paperback)
One day I shall open a Nordic crime novel and find that the investigation centres on two pensioners smothered in their beds. Until then authors appear to be competing with one another to describe the most bloodily dismembered body lying at the crime scene. Here we read that, `one hand is lying three metres away under the chairs. But where's the other?'

In this book, published in 2007 in an English translation by Marlaine Delargy, Asa Larsson, an ex-tax lawyer who grew up in the northern Swedish town of Kiruna, introduces Rebecka Martinsson, a young corporate lawyer who is under pressure in her job, was raised in Kiruna, but was forced to leave in disgrace. The character's name is an act of homage to Martin Beck, the central character of the 1965-75 Swedish detective series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö.

A young man, Viktor Strandgård, is murdered in a Kiruna church (the opening of the novel finds him on the point of death watching the Aurora Borealis blazing overhead) and is found by his sister, Sanna, a rather feckless mother of two. Before long she becomes the main suspect and contacts her former flat-mate and friend, Rebecka, to help her. Rather reluctantly, Rebecka returns to Kiruna where she is met with some hostility, especially after the police charge Sanna with the murder.

The death receives national news coverage because the victim had previously `died' after a car accident, been resuscitated and had subsequently written a bestseller about his experience, and because of the church in which he was found, one that `soared up into the night sky, surrounded by stars and planets. It stood like a gigantic illuminated ice cube, shimmering with the Aurora Borealis' and is led by the charismatic Thomas Söderberg, whom Rebecka knows only too well.

The story takes place in the frozen north of Sweden, which is described very well. The plotting is straightforward with none of the shattering revelations that one sometimes gets. The story unfolds to reveal a great many secrets that, although they defy the activities of invading newspaper and TV reporters are revealed by Rebecka, working closely with the sympathetic local police.

The characterisation throughout is excellent, Inspector Anna-Maria Mella is much involved despite being confined to desk duties and seemingly on the point of having a baby throughout the story, Sven-Erik Stålnacke, her deputy, who lacks the inner belief to take charge of the investigation, a nice differentiating touch, and their odious, publicity-seeking boss, Carl von Post. The support that the senior police officers give to Sanna and Rebecka is a thread running through the novel.

There are also the three un-Christian pastors of the church and their wives, Sanna's parents, he smug and she too fearful to end her life, and Måns, Rebecka's boss at Meijer & Ditzinger, whom she despises but who, one suspects, migh have another, more positive side. The older generation is represented by Rebecka's old neighbour, Sivving Fjallborg, and by her memories of her dead grandmother. This allows the author to compare the today's rat-race of individualism with an earlier, mutually-supportive lifestyle.

Rebecka must try to support Sanna, look after her two children and investigate the killings and the secrets behind the church's success, and these and other pressures on her are gradually built up by the author.

This is an excellent debut, it is sometimes difficult to believe it was a first book, and the author and translator are both to be congratulated. I will even forgive the anonymous note that Rebecka receives that ends `YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!', obviously sent by a villain who appreciates the additional emphasis that an exclamation mark brings.

This book is extremely confident and assured, contrasts are made between the present and past, city and rural communities, and religious and hypocritical churchgoers. At its centre, Rebecka is a very human character, angry at herself and others, regretful that she had not established a better relationship with her grandmother but tenacious and self-confident. As the revelations about what caused her to leave Kiruna are revealed we see her in a new light.

Her interaction with the police in Kiruna were very believable but it will be interesting to see how Rebecka will manage if confronted with police forces, prosecutors and criminality from further afield.

Sadly, a domestic animal was badly mistreated in the writing of this novel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Decent enough Swedish crime fiction,, 20 Jun. 2013
By 
col2910 (Bedfordshire,UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Savage Altar (Rebecka Martinsson 1) (Paperback)
Synopsis/blurb.........
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 Ãsa 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...
Well this was my first taste of another new female author and was my chosen Scandinavian read for the current month. I enjoyed it, though the first part of the book was a bit of a slog. If I'm truthful, I think this is more down to me rather than the author, particularly as the last 160-odd pages only took me a day to cover, as I became more absorbed in the story.
On a personal level, my reading mojo appears to have deserted me this month. I`m less driven to read at the minute and more easily distracted, tiredness seems to have over-taken me and whilst I will try and keep at it and read more this month, at the minute is seems to be less of a pleasure and more of a chore. I'm not beating myself up over it and I think I will give myself this month off from all my series reads and choose a bit more randomly for the last half of the month, with the hope of recapturing the elusive feel good factor. I sometimes think that by structuring my reading so rigidly eg next Block, next Crais, next Collins, next Scandinavian, I've limited my options and removed too much spontaneity from my selections.
Anyway, back to Larsson's book........I was interested in and liked the main character Rebecka, whose admirable loyalty towards Sanna was abused and taken advantage of. Intelligent and tenacious, she was brave enough to confront her past and face her demons in an effort to uncover the motive for Viktor's death; believing her friend innocent of the crime.
Larsson's other characters were engaging and believable; especially Rebecka's friend Sivving and the two police officers involved in the case. There was the token officious jobs-worth in the form of the prosecutor, but on the whole the characters were convincing.
Overall, I found it fast-paced and enjoyable with a satisfying conclusion. I'm in two minds whether I will be back for further Martinsson books, mainly because I need to read some of the many already waiting for me. The others are:
2. The Blood Spilt (2007)
3. The Black Path (2008)
4. Until Thy Wrath be Past (2011)
It might be worth noting that this has been published elsewhere under the title Sun Storm.
4 stars from 5
I'm unsure where or when I acquired my copy.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric and compelling, 21 Sept. 2013
By 
John Williams (Apeldoorn, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Savage Altar (Kindle Edition)
This is the first Asa Larsson book that I have read, and I will be reading more. It is a book of extremes. The story takes place in the far north of Sweden in the depth of winter, and the dark, cold atmosphere is created faithfully. It begins with a gruesome killing (of course), then takes us on a tour of some very unlikeable characters before reaching its explosive conclusion. The writing and translation, particularly when it comes to the dialogue, are natural and flowing, making the book a compelling page turner. The characters are believable; even the good ones - including the woman who turns out to be the heroine - have their weaknesses and unattractive aspects, and the bad ones are thoroughly bad. The fact that the characters are so real - they have families and children and dogs - makes the horror and menace all the more palpable. As far as the plot of this book goes, all ends are tied up satisfactorily, though there is enough unfinished business in the lives of the protagonists to leave the reader wanting to know more about them. Thus the way is paved for a series of stories. One minor drawback is that the point of view changes frequently, so we are initially left unsure as to who the hero/heroine really is; is it the lawyer or the police woman? Possibly both, but it is difficult to see how they can feature together in a follow-up story. But this is a minor criticism that does not merit the deduction of a star; this is a five star book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 210 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Savage Altar (Rebecka Martinsson 1)
The Savage Altar (Rebecka Martinsson 1) by Asa Larsson (Paperback - 15 Sept. 2011)
£8.99
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews