It smells like rotten eggs. The air is hazy and gray with gunpowder smoke. Everyone has been shot by me. I haven’t got even as much as a bruise.
Nine months ago, a mass shooting took place at a prestigious prep in one of the wealthiest suburbs of Stockholm, Sweden. During the shooting, 18 year old Maja’s best friend, Amanda, and lover, Sebastian, were both killed. Since that time Maja has been imprisoned and is now facing her day in court. As Maja grimly reflects though, it probably won’t be much of a trial since just about everyone in the country with the possible exception of her lawyer Sander seems convinced of her guilt. How is it that Maja, attractive, bright, popular, and from a wealthy family came to be the defendant in Sweden’s most explosive criminal case? What actions – or inactions on her part brought her to this point?
Quicksand by Malin Persson Giglito flashes in and out of the present day time with the trial to recount Maja’s doomed love affair with the charismatic but disturbed Sebastian son of the richest man in Sweden. The book acts as both a gripping courtroom thriller and a psychological thriller. Maja at times seems almost clinically detached to the proceedings that will determine her whole future. Hearing the lead prosecutor paint her as a uniquely evil perpetrator, her primary reaction is boredom at how long the woman drones on. At first this may seem odd or even psychotic, but what eventually emerges is a young woman deeply traumatized by a combination of grief, guilt, and despair.
Giolito examines issues of class, immigration, gender, and teenage alienation while piecing together the complicated web of events. None of the adults, be they teachers, parents, or investigators, seem of any use here except once more for Sandor, who’s not exactly brimming with warmth but whose dedication to factualness and the truth makes him the closest thing the novel has to a hero. The conclusion to what happened in that classroom may be pre-determined, but we’re captivated with finding out how it came to be. It’s not always a smooth or seamless journey, but it is nevertheless a mesmerizing one and with a narrative voice that is as unique as it is unforgettable.
Malin Persson Giglito
Top photo of Malin Persson Giolito, credit Viktor Fremling