MARKED FOR LIFE by Emelie Schepp
CBTB Rating: 4.5/5
The Verdict: gripping intro to Nordic Noir
Nordic noir is my ultimate favorite genre, and I'm always on the lookout for new authors to love. When I heard that international bestselling author Emelie Schepp's first book was set to publish in the US this spring, I was over the moon excited. MARKED FOR LIFE exceeded my expectations for Schepp's introduction to American audiences, and I highly recommend this book for a page-turning, bone-chilling story you won't want to end.
MARKED FOR LIFE introduces American readers to Schepp's leading lady, the inimitable prosecutor Jana Berzelius. When the Swedish head of migration is found shot to death in his home, suspicion falls on his grieving wife. No one expects to find child-sized handprints at the crime scene—especially because the victim and his wife never had children. Shortly after, on a nearby desolate shore, the body of a preteen is discovered... And with him, the gun that killed the government official. Jana Berzelius finds herself drawn ever further into a case with deep ties to her own past, and readers follow Jana into a maze of corruption and lies.
In a genre flooded with truly compelling police procedurals, what makes Schepp's US debut stand out is her main character, Jana Berzelius. Jana is an enigmatic, single-minded woman who puts career over all else—all while hiding a huge secret from her past. I absolutely loved the way Schepp gives readers a female main character whose development isn't reliant on a love interest. Of course, a little romance for a female lead isn't a bad thing (here's looking at you, Erica Falck and Patrik Hedstrom of Läckberg's series), but I admired Schepp's determination to keep this story focused on Jana's individual development.
This story really takes off when the reader begins to understand Jana's personal connection to the case to which she has been assigned. I was a little bit hesitant about the book at the beginning, waiting to see which direction the story would take; as soon as I began to see the connection between Jana and the case unfold, I was hooked. I always love when a main character has to "go rogue" and work on her own, and it was supremely entertaining to watch Jana do so. Jana's off-the-books investigation into the story's central case is an addictive twist on the police procedural—all the elements of investigative work are present, but because she's working outside the law, Jana gets to employ some unsavory tactics that make for a gripping read.
One major point that struck me while reading MARKED FOR LIFE was the uncanny similarity between a central thread of this story and my beloved THE CROW GIRL by Erik Axl Sund. If you were intrigued by my (endless) ranting about THE CROW GIRL, but hesitant about the length and violence of that book, MARKED FOR LIFE is the book for you. What exactly is the similarity of plot that I noticed? Both books deal with issues of immigration and violence towards children—specifically, an almost "fight club"-like scenario, where kidnapped children are forced to fight one another. Clearly, MARKED FOR LIFE also has a violent plot, but it's a lighter read than THE CROW GIRL, and doesn't explore issues of trauma and mental anguish with the visceral realism that THE CROW GIRL does. Where THE CROW GIRL is shocking and unnerving (which I loved, but won't work for all readers), MARKED FOR LIFE presents a similar level of grit with less possibility of nightmares.
MARKED FOR LIFE is the perfect introduction to Nordic Noir for new readers of the genre. Fans of Camilla Läckberg and Sara Blaedel will similarly love Emelie Schepp's US debut. Pick this one up for an atmospheric, gritty, addictive police procedural with a very personal twist.
MARKED FOR LIFE releases June 14, 2016, from MIRA.