Review: “Quicksand” by Malin Persson Giolito

Author: Malin Persson Giolito
Publication Date: March 14th 2019
Genre: Legal Thriller
Format: Paperback
Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads



An incisive courtroom thriller and a drama that raises questions about the nature of love, the disastrous side effects of guilt, and the function of justice.

A mass shooting has taken place at a prep school in Stockholm’s wealthiest suburb. Eighteen-year-old Maja Norberg is charged for her involvement in the massacre that left her boyfriend and her best friend dead. She has spent nine months in jail awaiting trial. Now the time has come for her to enter the courtroom. How did Maja—popular, privileged, and a top student—become a cold-blooded killer in the eyes of the public? What did Maja do? Or is it what she failed to do that brought her here?

 Malin Persson Giolito has written a perceptive portrayal of a teenage girl and a blistering indictment of a society that is coming apart. A work of great literary sensibility, Quicksand touches on wealth, class, immigration, and the games children play among themselves when parents are no longer attuned to their struggles.

From Amazon


TLDR; a legal thriller that inspired a Netflix series. Follows Maja’s story as she traverses a dark web of interpersonal relationships and the current status of her trial in the aftermath of a school shooting.

First of all, I had no idea this had any relation to a Netflix original series when I picked this up. Granted, Netflix spins up so many of those left and right it’s hard to keep track but still. I’d found this book by chance online a few weeks back and decided to purchase it given an interest in thrillers. The summary hinted at a legal thriller, which I haven’t read much of but I had high hopes. After giving it a read I can now say this opened my eyes to a whole new type of thriller sub-genre! Previous thrillers I’d read were quite frankly terrifying (in a good but kept me up at night sort of way), but this book had the softer caress of chaos bubbling underneath right before it all exploded. It was just my pace.

Action in this book takes the form of drugs, young adult partying, some interpersonal relationship surprises (some of which are quite shocking), and of course the main event itself. About half of the story takes place in the court room after the event as Maja undergoes the trial to determine her fate. The other half periodically reflects back on how she ended up there, starting with a fateful summer and navigating through her remaining time in school where much of the action takes place. Readers see the varied dynamics of friendship, relationships, family, and their unfortunate toxic interplay.

In abstract form, this story conveys the huge importance of the parenting role in guiding their children through to adulthood. There were so many times in the book where you can’t help but think if only a caring adult would have stepped in it might have made a world of difference. As other readers have pointed out in Goodreads comments there’s also an inkling of class commentary, showing differences in how families with more financial stability and renown are treated compared to immigrants in the country. This of course trickles down to impact how those children relate to and interact with the world around them as well. Finally, there’s a lesson on the impact of the friends you keep. Peer groups are a powerful thing especially as a young adult, and it’s difficult to expect someone that age to have the strength to break ties and expectations set upon them both by peers and other adults.

The story was a bit frustrating in that you can see the slow deterioration of their lives on the pages as you read. I’m unsure if the ending was meant to be a surprise, however. Everything seemed to lead up to and clinch on that final verdict, but the outcome seemed straightforward by the time we got there. In that regard perhaps to me the ending was less successful. The book on whole, though, was a good read. I’m inspired to pick up more legal thrillers in the future to see how it compares, and might recommend this book as a good introduction to the genre.

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