Setting: Back to the resort town of Fjallbacka, Sweden.
Story: One November morning, Magnus Kjellner walks out of his home to go to work, and disappears. The discovery of his body, months later, sets off a chain of events linking local men Christian, Erik, and Kenneth.
Christian is a new author, whose book is well received, putting him on the edge of a great career. Erik is a philandering businessman, with an overwhelming sense of his own superiority. Kenneth is Erik’s (junior) partner; he shares his home with his dying wife, for whom he cares with unbridled love. What is it that links them? Who is writing the menacing notes they each receive? Why do they all deny the danger, and lie to the police?
The Good Stuff: Once again, Lackberg comes up with a powerful back story – history if you like – which in the book is gradually revealed at intervals, between the day to day happenings and events of the police investigation of Magnus’ death. The author protects The Dark Secret, builds up nicely to its shocking disclosure, and presents it to us as another example of the banality of evil. And the contemporary plot is also well put together and artfully handled by the author. The twists and surprises are well timed, and keep up the reader’s interest.
More Good Stuff: Lackberg’s portrayal of the threatened individuals is well done; it almost overshadows her depiction of the central police character – Patrik Edstrom – whose wife nearly outshines him, too. To put it briefly, fine characterization abounds. I also like the way the author brings motherhood, parenting, and real, normal family issues into the story, without screaming out a sermon from the hilltops. There’s a balance in this world of Lackberg’s, where issues and ideas are presented without an Author’s Message warning. It’s for the reader to take out of the book what he sees as more or less important.
Worth Highlighting: Tiina Nunnally’s translation is excellent.
Not So Good Stuff: Some readers will not like the fact the book has a similar structure to The Stonecutter, with the output (arguably) as much a work of original art as a painting-by-numbers piece. Other readers will not be engrossed by the story, which lacks the easy appeal of plentiful action and violence. However, although I would prefer the author used a different structure, I would have to work hard to find anything material to criticize in the book. In short, if there is some not so good stuff, I didn’t see it.