It seems perfectly fitting that my first blog post of Crime by the Book's second year in existence is dedicated to one of my favorite books: THE CROW GIRL by Erik Axl Sund. Today I’m thrilled to share a Q&A with writing duo Erik Axl Sund, discussing their brilliant crime book, their writing process, and what they're working on next.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll no doubt have seen me mention this book a few (okay, a lot) of times. THE CROW GIRL is tied for my favorite book of all time, and now is the perfect time to grab your copy! THE CROW GIRL released in paperback in June - you can find buy links for this book at the end of this post.
In this post, you’ll find: a plot summary, a brief paragraph on what I love about this book, and of course the main highlight - a Q&A with Erik Axl Sund!
Many thanks to Erik Axl Sund for answering my questions, and to the publisher for facilitating this Q&A.
About THE CROW GIRL & Erik Axl Sund
In a Stockholm city park, police find the tortured body of a youth. Then, they find two more, and it becomes clear that they are facing an extraordinary case—and an extraordinarily twisted killer. Detective Superintendent Jeanette Kihlberg heads the investigation, battling an apathetic prosecutor and a bureaucratic police force. She turns to the therapist Sofia Zetterlund for her expertise in psychopathic perpetrators, and under the pressure of the investigation, their lives become inextricably intertwined. As the two women draw closer to the truth about the killings, they begin to discover a hideous evil at work, and it’s much closer to them than they think. Mesmerizing and explosive, The Crow Girl is a tale of almost unfathomably heinous deeds and of the catastrophic damage, and the profound need for revenge, left in their wake.
About the Author:
ERIK AXL SUND is the pen name of Swedish author duo Jerker Eriksson and Håkan Axlander Sundquist, recipients of the Special Award from the Swedish Crime Writers Academy. In addition to writing, Eriksson has been a prison librarian and the producer of an electro punk band, and Sundquist has worked as a sound engineer, musician, and artist. They live in Stockholm.
What I Love about THE CROW GIRL
From the moment I picked up THE CROW GIRL in early 2016, I knew I had found something special. This epic crime saga is truly one of a kind - originally published in Sweden as a trilogy, its plot is sweeping and layered, encompassing all walks of life, varying time periods, and fleshing out characters who are unparalleled in their complexity. Both a gripping, visceral crime story and a sensitive, insightful exploration of emotional and mental trauma, THE CROW GIRL is simply a masterpiece. I’ve read nearly a hundred crime books since I read THE CROW GIRL, and my connection to it is just as strong as it was the moment I set this book down.
Read More about THE CROW GIRL on CBTB:
Q&A: Erik Axl Sund
Crime by the Book: Where did you first come up with the idea that became THE CROW GIRL?
Erik Axl Sund: We are two people who write together, so the answers will be a mix of both of us. Two brains, two experiences. One text.
We call us “me.”
I have always felt more sympathy for women than for men. Even though I believe that gender is basically a social construct, I’ve also come to realize that the human experience depends on what gender you were born with. When listening to my female friends’ experiences, I’ve often heard how men act and behave. The insight that a lot of my female friends have been exposed to sexual harassment, unbridled approaches, or even incest or rape—I wanted to write about that.
I wanted to write about something I felt was important, and did.
I used the writing as a kind of therapy. Sometimes I was the patient, sometimes I was the therapist, but it turned into a rather heavy text without movement. Some people sitting in a room, talking about their experiences. It was a counseling session.
Then the thought of crime fiction crossed my mind. A good genre.
A cop. A complicated case.
The framework is already provided and you can fill the free space between the police work with whatever you want.
CBTB: The US edition of THE CROW GIRL is published as one book, divided into 3 Parts. Each of these Parts takes on a different tone and focus. Would you be able to share a bit about each Part? What does each Part of the story signify or represent?
EAS: In Sweden and many other countries the books were published in three parts.
The first part is like a patient’s first meetings with a therapist. It’s chaotic and the problems gradually rise to the surface, are excavated.
In the second part, the problem begins to crystallize. It is contemplative and calmer.
The third part is about understanding, and maybe even forgiveness. Catharsis.
CBTB: One of the most fascinating components of this story is the character of Sofia. She’s one of my favorite characters I’ve ever read: she’s complex and troubled, and you portray her in a way that’s sensitive and thoughtful while still being blunt about the anguish and pain she has endured. What inspired you to write this character? Where did the idea for Sofia come from?
EAS: Sofia is a blend of myself, my friends, and my imagination.
Because I have two brains, two personalities, and two people’s combined experiences, Sofia became a rather complicated and contradictory person.
CBTB: Your story is filled with strong female characters: women who are even more tough and resilient than their male counterparts. Does THE CROW GIRL have a feminist streak to it? Would readers be correct to see these characters as making a statement against misogyny?
CBTB: THE CROW GIRL is a complex and far-reaching story: a police procedural, a layered mystery, and an examination of mental illness all wrapped in one. If you had to pick, which one theme or element of this story do you hope readers will remember most?
EAS: I don’t think the different stories are easily separated from one another. They’re dependent on each other. But sure, if one has to be chosen, I think that the mental illness element is the most interesting part.
CBTB: Readers will be fascinated to learn that Erik Axl Sund is actually a pen name for a writing duo! What are the challenges of writing as a team? What are the benefits?
EAS: The challenges are not as many as the benefits. Despite the fact that both writing and getting along are always a challenge. Don’t you think?
CBTB: Along with writing together, you are also in a band together. Can you share a little bit about your music? Do you feel that your music influences your writing in any way?
EAS: We did music together before we became full-time writers, and there are actually some similarities. You have to cooperate and compromise (not everyone can be the singer). Then of course you find a rhythm and melody in the written word. The text needs to have a flow, just like music. Our “model” for the book was like a Ramones song. No chapter should take more than three minutes to read, and the sentences have to be easy to read but complex in meaning. You should be able to “hear” the book when you go to bed at night. Nowadays we only write, and run our art gallery in Stockholm. If there is some spare time we try to make art together. Four-handedly.
CBTB: Last but certainly not least: what’s next for you two? Can US readers look forward to a new book from Erik Axl Sund soon? (I hope so!)
EAS: We are just about to finish our next novel. It takes place in the same fictitious Stockholm but the characters are different.
Paperback: 880 pages
Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; Reprint edition (June 27, 2017)
Find THE CROW GIRL on Amazon.