Block­buster thriller lives up to the hype

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE -

THRILLER Se­bas­tian — pos­si­bly in self-de­fense — and left to face jus­tice alone. Her high-priced lawyer ex­presses op­ti­mism that the reader may find dif­fi­cult to share.

As the pros­e­cu­tion presents its case, Maja thinks dis­dain­fully about al­most ev­ery­one. She scorns the prose­cu­tor for her “tacky ear­rings … un­even bangs and eye­brows that look like they were drawn on with a ball­point pen.” She says the teacher who was shot to death “thought rock con­certs could save the world from war, famine and dis­ease.” Her own mother “has al­ways been in­ex­pli­ca­bly clue­less,” and her best friend, Amanda, an­other vic­tim, is mocked for be­ing su­per­fi­cial: “When she watched YouTube videos about the world’s fat­test man leav­ing his house for the first time in thirty years she would say ‘Shh! Not now! I’m watch­ing the news.'” Read­ers de­fi­cient in the milk of hu­man kind­ness may warm to tart­tongued Maja.

The story al­ter­nates between court­room scenes and Maja’s richly de­tailed mem­o­ries. She re­calls los­ing her vir­gin­ity at 15 to a boy who smoked hash, played bass and wrote poetry. But her great love is Se­bas­tian, who gives the wildest par­ties, uses the coolest drugs and jets off to New York and Paris for week­ends. Soon after they meet, she joins him for a voy­age to Capri on his fa­ther’s yacht. The au­thor, Malin Pers­son Gi­olito, car­ries us deep into the lives of these star-crossed lovers and the deca­dent so­ci­ety that shaped them. Se­bas­tian, whose mother was ban­ished years ear­lier and whose truly nasty fa­ther de­spised him, was doomed from the start.

Once Se­bas­tian is gone, Maja is left lov­ing no one ex­cept her 5-year-old sis­ter, whom she hasn’t seen since she was sent to jail to await trial. Ex­cept for miss­ing her sis­ter, Maja doesn’t mind jail, be­cause it’s quiet and pri­vate and she’s safe from all the peo­ple who news­pa­per head­lines have taught to hate her.

Gi­olito, who prac­ticed law be­fore she turned to fic­tion, writes with ex­cep­tional skill. She seems to know ev­ery­thing about Stock­holm’s rich and the ways of teenage girls. Her story ex­am­ines the cor­ro­sive ef­fects of vast wealth. Even the novel’s ti­tle, “Quick­sand,” sug­gests a world that will suck in, swal­low and de­vour the un­wary.

Gi­olito al­ways shows sym­pa­thy for Maja, who is var­i­ously brave, con­fused, self-de­struc­tive and be­set by prob­lems she doesn’t un­der­stand: “Why did Se­bas­tian choose me? There had to be a rea­son! Why did he come to me at the ho­tel that night? Why did he track me down in Nice? Why did he stay?”

It’s a long novel, per­haps a lit­tle too long, but al­ways smart and en­gross­ing.

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